The Flesh Machine, by Critical Art Ensemble, discusses western culture and its excessive consumption. The authors present examples that show a close inspection of authoritarian ideology that justifies repression and oppression. These processes are done through the sight machine, flesh machine, and war machine, which coexist in a pancapitalist society driven by production, consumption, and order. Each machanic process is composed of management systems, which increases productivity, isolation, and alienation.
The flesh machine’s agenda is to completely invade the flesh with vision and mapping technology and to develop the political and economic frontiers of flesh products and services. It is a “heavily funded liquid network of scientific and medical institutions with knowledge specializations in genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, human reproduction, neurology, pharmacology, etc., combined with nomadic technocracies of interior vision and surgical development” (5). The body is placed under new management to better fulfill the imperatives of pancapitalism.
The sight machine directs public perception toward new developments in telecommunications where education and media become dominant institutions of socialization causing family and church to fall to secondary support positions (14). The sight machine falls under the Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) statement of control where perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors are molded as to “not conflict with dominant historical and socioeconomic imperatives and conventions” (15). Technology under the sight machine is widely accessible (radios, televisions, movies, etc.). The sight machine builds desire to own and to be close to image technology. It specifies and regulates our role in the material world.
The war machine does not provide accessible technology as it is strictly for military function. This machinic process falls under the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) statement of control where structure maintained through violent militarized social intervention depends on complex technology. Such technology includes the excessive mapping of social and geological environments that is then used by the war machine as a strategy of control. Ethics are rarely considered as it hinders progress of technological turn-around. The advancement of science and technology with in the war machine are developed with only progress in mind.
Western exaltation consists of an increased rationalization for consumption, production, and order by any means. In the process of development, we improve and redesign our bodies, culture, and society in order to reach normalization, which is beyond human capabilities. In time, our culture becomes numb to acts of body reformatting, excessive consumption in all aspects of daily life, and producing beyond what was previously impossible to produce. This desire for extreme reconfiguration may bring society face to face with the realities of natural selection, the wrath of God, or a post human society that has undergone complete organic erasure. The advancement of the flesh machine, war machine, and sight machine may lead humanity to self-destruction.
Questions for discussion:
1. The Critical Art Ensemble states that Virtual Reality is limited to arcade entertainment and to secondary display technology that helps boost consumption. Hasn’t computer gaming today developed into a type of VR that has achieved this boost/goal?
2. “The problem of virtual reality is that there are very few occasions when the institutions selling the products want to give even the smallest amount of authentic choice to the consumer.” It seems that today we are surrounded by choices. What is “authentic choice?” What about the perception of choice?
3. (Topic to Discuss) Ethics