A picture of VNS Matrix c. 1993 which I totally ripped off their Instagram without permission, hope they don't mind. Pictured L-R: Julianne Pierce, Francesca da Rimini, Josephine Starrs, Virginia Barratt (I think, correct me if I'm wrong).
I stepped out of my residency on Friday afternoon to attend some of the Women, Art and Feminism Symposium at VCA, where I was asked by the formidable Francesca Da Rimini and Virginia Barratt* to co-narrate a text with them. VB and Francesca are, among other things, deluxe Slime Merchants two of the founding members of VNS Matrix. They continue to work collaboratively as In Her Interior. I've reproduced the text here in its fully fermented juicy glory. It communes with Haraway and Cixous but excites me more than both, tbh.
*who is one of my forthcoming interlocutors, and will also be performing in two of my upcoming works forFOLA.
In Her Interiors + Onyx. B Carmine (special guest), L-R: Francesca, Onyx and VB. Amy Ireland took the picture.
Title: Hexing the Alien (reprised)
Authors: In Her Interior (Francesca da Rimini & Virginia Barratt)
Abstract From VNS Matrix, Doll Yoko, Abject Anhedonie to aliens, cyborgs, provisional subjects and “monster mash”, In Her Interior reflect on what "cybernetic organisms" mean today, when we experience hybrid conditions of being, our blood and flesh intertwined with big data, intrusive technospaces, and increasing domains of surveillance. As Donna Haraway stated in 1984 in A Cyborg Manifesto, the cyborg was described as a subject of political reflection and agency on the development of culture and society, where technology, and its strict relation with the body, assumed a crucial role. This imagining of new situated subjectivities mediated by technology inspired theorists, feminists, artists, hackers and critical occultists. But what does it mean to speak about the cyborg as situated subjectivity today? If, as Antonio Caronia wrote in The Cyborg, we are all aliens and precarious, becoming the simulacra of the contemporary, can our body still be a metaphor of the possible? Which speculative practices can throw shapes to jam the drooling maw of power?
Sound track: I can dream now (from Sounds for an Empty Dollspace by Tiny K) Icesongs (Virginia Barratt) Slime Invocation (polycephalic homage) Angels, demons (from Sounds for an Empty Dollspace by Tiny K) Various cuts (Alice Farmer)
Video: Virginia Barratt
Introduction MINUTE 0 - 1
VIDEO: 1 minute of blue - gradation begins SOUND: 1 minute of ‘I can dream’ now
31 years after Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto led an exodus from the divine to hardware 183 years after Ada Lovelace, Enchantress of Numbers, summoned analysis where before there was only difference 67 years after Christine Jorgensen split atoms and became gender ground zero 15 years after VNS Matrix’s Cyberfeminist manifesto declared each mainframe a clitoris 5 years after Maria Alyokhina showcased the feminine rage and resilience that will not be snuffed out and will be heard. 15 years after the CCRU escaped institutional lockdown to turn their asylum inside out on upon world 32 years after Rose Kolodny, Steppin’ Razor, was ectogenetically birthed into the sprawl, hanging garden of Chiba-Babylon. 21 years since Sandy Stone donated a body part to Linda Dement’s Cyberflesh Girlmonster and made the machines restless 11 centuries since Hildegarde von Bingen, the Sibyl of the Rhine, sang the songs of the blood in theological code, prophesy, activism, and cosmology 10 years after VNS Matrix’s Bitch Mutant manifesto became a tender hex at 25 Gregorians. 12 years after Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch celebrated the resistant classes of vagabonds, paupers and the rest of those with enough magic to burn 14 years after Lisa Nakamura jammed the ideology-machine with race-as-bug, articulating critical recombinant mattering as a disruption to cybersocial hygiene identity tourism. 45 years after Ursula Le Guin exploded communist utopias in The Dispossessed 62 milliseconds after the ghost of Poly Styrene pushed hair from your ear and screamed silence into your plastic bag mind 19 years after Sadie Plant’s Zeros and Ones traced the almost literal thread from computation as we know it today, woven into our world as it is, back to its gathering across a Jacquard loom 32 years after Octavia Butler broke the dawn on xenogenesis 8 centuries after Jeanne de Purcelle heard the Voices 35 years after Theresa Hak Kyung Cha dictated both contradiction and positive construction. 3 years after HER multitudinous proliferations and endless love 4 years after Shulamith Firestone died alone 27 centuries since Sappho scribed her mysterious agendered hexecutables on Lesbos 22 years after Critical Art Ensemble released The Electronic Disturbance into the noosphere 37 years after Laurie Anderson held us in her petrochemical arms, her military arms, her electronic arms 45 years after Wendy Carlos showed with a single procedure that moving Bach into the world of synthesis was also to move gender into the world of synthesis 199 years after Mary Shelley symbiotically birthed the modern Prometheus. 122 hours after Amy Ireland drank wine in Berlin and revealed the hard poetic intricacies of fuck knows everything relevant Time unknown before and since Laboria Cuboniks, speaking as no one in particular, broke nature’s nature with xenocoded alienation, making monsters that speak in tongues of code and plastic. 1 lifetime after your mother bit through your umbilical and said into your red face REDEEM ME Inestimable time before and beyond finitude, climate change hurtling us all towards a singularity the extropians didn’t imagine…
V look provisional (Text Image as well as voice) an emergent entity, eliding retinal capture, slipping between materialities, a permanently partial identity with contradictory affinities and promiscuous alliances
F look croneborg (Text Image as well as voice) a mud witch with feet of ash
V the alien ecto-offspring traffic in dark heretical wonderment and travel light and fast across the mesosphere bringing gifts of speculative wonder and packets of contagion
F alchemists, skin-walkers and hedge-riders uncover the Ways
V the coterie abstracted by rational and peculiar magics draw lines around a spectacular cryptocrystalline form
F fling 5 bitchcoins to trigger the hexing of Capital
V disturbing the oldchrome world, sending pulses into the D/Rift
F divination through glitchcoin using, confusing, infusing capital a tripling of the hex
V a dripping trickle a trick or treating to unbind the knots of power
F summoning all our familiars, walking backwards into the future. now is the time for recuperating myth, recalling the power of lewd jests and public gestures
We are we and not we This is what we *thought* we were doing (Onscreen)
VNS Matrix VNS: corporate fauxcronym passing/parsing/para-citing IBM, HP and DEC and all those WIRED beards in the valley. A ludic acronym. Very Nice Sluts. Virtual Nodes of Slime. Vestibular Necronomic Strategists.
Just one cyberfeminist praxis. Just one irregular moonlet Just one comet. In a galaxy of potentialities Always becoming
Matrix: womb: ectogenetic, non-bioreproductive, a kink in Cartesian space a spiralled grid, an irrational topology infolding
XYZ confronts the ineffable, unlanguaging experience as we build display villages in n-dimensional space
Cyberfeminism: a catalytic moment, a shape arriving from the future, a collective memetic mind-virus that mobilised geek grrrls (there were others too but first they had to Becomeminor) everywhere and unleashed the blasphemic techno-porno code that aroused the machine’s affinity for the co-production of pleasure and wetness.
Cyberfeminism became insect, excretions crystallising to make a sweet home inside the machine. tensile slimebody, monstrous, always morphing. More force than form, more river than sediment.
VNS Matrix crystallised slime capital into manifestoed abjection, anti-reason rationality and poetry. The “Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century” launched a hyperstitional attack on the gatekeepers of the new digital fortresses where machines were enslaved to the patriarchal overlords.
We, the human carriers, became-incubator of worlds of words, hatcherie of entities, ectogenetic mothers of monsters, contested agendered creatures that defied representation.
Manifesto as mobile incendiary device. (+ Text on screen)
It comes to rest by the generative head of a provisional female in a field of cybercunts speaking the abyss
It sings the song of a cyborg that is neither this nor that, but a multiplicity of augmented assemblages that rely on no man’s prayers and pleas for their constitution or restitution a dirty unfettered feminism that is not one but many Or, but any Or Or Or
Couroux says: they preach counter-hegemony but I'm hearing the language of exclusionary dogma: you're with us or against us. fuck that shit!
This cultural resistance in the drift zones of hyperreality and late capitalism ‘rejected the super-idealism of Plato’s Republic and its prison house of ideas, duties, redemptions, immoralities, and endless power grids. [We] let loose a deep cunt without shame on the pure order of code.’
Cyberfeminism 1.0 was getting platform-ready for the coming insurrection a kaleidoscope of ongoing labour and sticky affinities shimmer-hacking into, retrofitting, cyberfeminist approaches and distros
Such an act of radical performativity, mobilised by a bunch of white girls from downunder, living on stolen land - the the ‘slow death, slow violence’ of terra nullius - was a radical move only for the few. The exclusionary, privileged, essentialist, binary, reductive nature of these acts was highlighted by, among others: Lisa Nakamura Maria Fernandez Jessie Daniels Radhika Gajjala Alondra Nelson Faith Wilding Yeon Ju Oh
This next-instance cyberfeminism scrutinised the assemblages of power still active in a nascent cyberfeminism that only superficially addressed race and power. Under this scrutiny the insufficiency of our radical perversities, the insufficiencies of our joyful ejaculations were amplified, becoming yawning generative vacuities which other murmurating feminisms sutured and rerouted.
What can we take from a cyberfeminism that was still learning itself? How can our insufficiencies instruct us?
Living in a cruel country where slow genocide and acts of incarceration and neglect are normalised, we call for a cyberfeminism that actively dismantles white supremacy and the illogic of a bordered State.
MINUTE 12:05 – MINUTE 15:14 VIDEO: Blue and mashup SOUND: icesongs/angels demons
F Haraway's cyborg is “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction”, one emerging from the possibility of the imagination. She posits that the “boundary between science fiction and social reality” is “an optical illusion”.
Into this diffuse liberatory space the agents of the New World Disorder, called cyberfeminists, techno hags and witches, female coders, riot grrls, geek grrls, gyne-hackers, instantiated themselves.
V These monstrous assemblages performed static ghostings across quasi borders, reconstituting in the material on one side of the screen or the other, calling into question the relationship of the real to the virtual, and the technolibertarian promise of emancipation.
Plantian dynamics unleashed a feminist occulted knowledge into the masculinist datascape.
These renegade zeros constituted a circle that is never one, as one alone is always less than zero. as one is always multiple.
F For Italian activist philosopher Antonio Caronia “Technology is the child of human activity, and as such is not the cause, but the obvious symptom, intermediary element and symbol of the transformation that enfolds us.”
Each wave of technological development creates its own cyborgs and monsters, and we are them.
V A messy sprawl of rebellious subjects disrupting the flows of power through expressions of the carnivalesque and persistent net behaviours.
F In the mode of Baubo, cyberfeminists (lewd jesters all!) raised their skirts and dropped their dacks in a Tactical Affective Gesture or TAG.
Cyberfeminist ram-raiders penetrated the fathers, queering the machine disturbing inertia, becoming-lively.
TAG offers a methodology for building cyborgs to be mobilised to contest an informational capitalism as parched as the bonedust of its walking dead.
V Clouds of TAGs unleash exuberant metadata-corrupting exploits. One becomes many, howling discordant odes to the anthropocene. Each note a tremor, each verse a shudder sending a new identity bladerunning throughout capitalism's necrotic body, hastening the rot.
F Because Tactical Affective Gestures produce arousal of emotions, they electrify our material and imaginal selves.
TAGs lift us out of our despair and miserabilism, just as Baubo, by revealing her crone cunt, coaxed lightness and laughter out of Demeter.
The TAGged cyborg is “resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity … oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence.”
And the world became digital and dwelt inside of us. (Onscreen)
V Like Demeter, we are no longer inconsolable.
MINUTE 15:14 - MINUTE 18:08
F And the Word became cyborg and dwelt among us
V The material turns magical/magical turns theoretical/theoretical turns the tables on the matrix to instantiate a new praxis for other-worlding.
We becomes they they becomes us us becomes unheimlich Praxis and intention recalibrated, unpacked from microfascisms, unburdened by shame, creating hybrid goddess-cyborg abstractions.
F Back to the future, we apprehend the Prime Borg, All New Gen, a blasphemous trinity of contagion, designed to infiltrate maximally the interstitial spaces of Big Daddy's Mainframe.
V What morphologies and methodologies would best suit a cyborg designed to exploit today’s more deeply informatised and globally networked capitalism?
F will today's cyborg be not post-human, nor trans-human nor circuit-trending ‘postcyberfeminist’
V (again, the mantra, 'fuck that shit!')
F but rather a familiar who is many part human, part alien, part hex, part spell?
An othering machine recuperating cybernetic serendipity building systems for divining weaknesses in the beast
Crafted to exploit info-capitalism's inherent contradictions, this borg will “bend [Capital’s] limits and expose its bugs” triggering cascading states of collapse
V A new cyborg assemblage. Name: Hexecutable Attributes: gazes backwards into the future.
F look Hexecutable (onscreen)
V You see a pack, growling
This strange pack, a hydra of yawning mouths, bares dirty infectious teeth that pierce the skin-border between labour and capital to insert a mutant hack and monster the machine.
F Hexecutable twitches, channeling The Invisible Committee:
It is not “the people” that produces the insurrection, it is the insurrection that produces its people by sparking off common experience and intelligence, the human fabric, and the real life language that had disappeared.
Resistance now requires a different plane of operation.
A revolutionary class needs to be built, as well as found.
V We must 'come to our senses' find accomplices 'reclaim the night' restore magics to the land and the body and hex Capital.
F Info-orders are breaking down, leaking, mutating, and cross-contaminating.
Direct experimentation, not representation, is required. We need roots that are aerials.
In short, we must co-opt Machines against their “better nature”.
V build, test, risk, fail, regroup, reiterate, run again.
MINUTE 18:08 - MINUTE 20:01
V “if nature is unjust change nature”
VoiceOver: the body is a diffuse cypherspace. Insert spaciously like a velvet matrix. Tenderly, information!
the great unwashed bring feathers and dreads into the towers of greed. they have feet for shoes and skin for suits. they fuck on the polished wood. and snarl when they come. this one nicks the skin, makes a raw site. It is an irritation, and there is rushing to the site, there is rushing and then some repair, beneath surfaces. But the irritant is already making nacre. this one takes the knife, slices open the belly. it’s warm In there, and comfortable in the suits of men, dressed up in viscera, passing.
treechangers flee the city to seed the mycelial networks of utopian retreat. They grow dank warm skins of green velvet, nodal, drink the mother, the kool-aid of awakened consciousness. feed on mossbodies harvest wild yeasts from rarefied hinterland air with local inflections
deranged hippy nodes make lovely compost for co-option…
while they are sleeping the uplink activates, the market streams through their dreams and nano aliens trade on cellular information their flickering REM eyes flood the dark pools with encrypted instructions and rumourware. the mushrooms glow at night. and S E N D the traffic is dense in the pulse
the invitation is clear. bodies appearing on the manifest need more than this to write a lovesong for the future, or a dirge. here is the blueprint for ingress. the warm machine awaits your intention.
The rapture never comes.
MINUTE 20:01 - MINUTE 21:27
V + F We had a dream last night
V Skinwalking through melting permafrosts, beds of bleached sea antlers, carpets of heat-felled bats, walking with gender as a liability, black lives unmattering, the human-gun assemblage targeting aberrant subjects, sterile insects crawling over beached black whales, Antarctic krill becoming imperceptible, frakked wastelands, icebergs calving stillborns, plastic bags gathering in the gyres.
F The hexecutable army design and cast confounding patterns of letters and numbers, coaxing magic from the besieged forests, mountains, deserts, reefs and clouds
The memetic affective zone of the ecobattlegrounds furcate and spiral outwards from multiple campfires that never ever go out, igniting more fires from sparks carried on bark across timespace, bearing intention.
Skinwalking not to Utopia, but to Ectopia.
Voiceover: In time, dead deterritorialisation spaciously becomes capital Why does the abyss work? In time, diffuse desolation spaciously becomes alien Become tenderly like a xeno cryptocrystalline.
MINUTE 21:27- MINUTE 21:50
V We hasten to put peak capital to bed, so we can dream new dreams.
F As victory is only ever temporary hexing capital must continue until the stars are uncoupled from the kingly realms and the swans take up residence in the castles
V then, and only then can we rise up singing!
Credits + Acknowledgements
Hexing the Alien (reprised)
Writers In Her Interior (Francesca da Rimini & Virginia Barratt)
Performers Virginia Barratt Francesca da Rimini Onyx B. Carmine/SJ Norman
Word + Concept Gleanings: Jill Biddle Antonia Caronia Marc Couroux Ricardo Dominguez Donna Haraway The Invisible Committee VNS Matrix Helene Cixous Students of the New Centre for Research and Practice seminar The Future is Unmanned Sadie Plant Petra Kendall Laboria Cubonics
Sound Tracks I can dream now (from Sounds for an Empty Dollspace by Tiny K) Icesongs (Virginia Barratt) Slime Invocation (polycephalic homage) Various cuts (Alice Farmer)
Sound Editing Virginia Barratt + Alice Farmer
Video Editing Virginia Barratt
In Her Interior warmly thanks: Onyx B. Carmine/SJ Norman (narration); Alice Farmer (sound production); Michael Grimm / Tiny K (Sounds for an Empty Dollspace); Amy Ireland (all manner of xeno hexerie); Anne Marsh and team (much affective labour to bring into being the Women, Art and Feminism in Australia since 1970 symposium, 21-23 February 2018); Soda Jerk (Undaddy Mainframe + Direct Line: the remix of the remix); the internet (for all the material that we gleaned)
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