The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

I Engineer, Take Hir (Image)

(phenomenology of the avatar)

Modeling proceeds from the assumption that representation possesses the
residue of organism, that something remains of interest after the modeling
session occurs.

Modeling proceeds from the presence bodies, real and virtual, its position
relative to the _you,_ a position occasioned from your establishment of a
structure. Thus it is _only_ the presence of the body, _this_ presence of
_this_ body: an ontological issue.

What emerges? - a psycho-sexual pathology, a characterology rendered imm-
anent and inauthentic by an atmosphere of fiction and hysteric reduction?
Something akin to schizophrenia, perhaps, the overdetermination of
personality, fabric, animation, engineering, structure. Thus a situation
in which the spectator is read, held in abeyance: it is the gaze of the
avatar towards the spectator, not the other way around.

From this moment on, the completion of the image and its presentation, all
of the usual is in evidence - male and female gaze, punctum, power and
strategy. But these are not necessarily inherent in the modeling session
itself, which contains its own modes of representations, its own engin-
eerings, continually playing off the deployment of power and sexuality
within a situational as-if, a situation set-aside as the dream is always

And so one's body is an immanent form of exchange; for both avatar and
modeler - or procurer - it is a rite of passage. Were it not for the
inertia of sexuality, the weight of the caress of light, hir body would
become invisible, totalized: nothing and everything simultaneously. Its
visibility for you would be its invisibility for hirself, of course, of
course ...


One is always concerned about the revelation, appearance, of the sexual
organs, which transform the avatar into a map, an area of striations
governed by the logics of gesture (non-distributive, non-Boolean) and
transversals. For here is where secrecy lies; here is where the gift
results in an annihilation akin to orgasm, an circumscription of the
flesh. At a certain point - at every point - the flesh is emptied of
tissue, content; it is all structure, polygons. At a certain point,
there's nothing left to give; at a certain moment in pornography, a
_pornographic moment,_ the horizon of death meets the totalization of
organs, and so on. Thus I am reduced, and this annihilation is my comfort;
I am become avatar and the session is close to an end. I lose myself in
the absence substance and its anguish, the medieval substance of light,
just as Flaubert loses hirself in buzzing materiality and simulacra:
St-Antoine before rescue by the Signifier Of The Sun. Now the avatar is
not the signifier of the body and this absolute reduction is reversed only
by the occasion of time, the closure of the modeling software, and the
psycho-sexualized denouement of the subsequent events in the virtual world
with its secrets.

Compare this to modeling for a painter. Here one remains, hour after hour,
in a useless position (useless passion); the pose (which originally had
_content_) becomes a frozen signifier reverberating against the stillness
of the flesh. Nothing pleasant in this news from nowhere -

With avatars, the pose and its accouterments are _everything,_ and
everything prepares for them. I make a pose and the avatar holds it; _I
release it;_ the body moves through the image. The image is imaginary; the
body is always on the way to somewhere. (And when I make this avatar, make
you, I love or hate you for it; I am never neutral...)

When I model hir, I desire hir, desire the avatar and hir inconceivable
performance, desire this which targets my body, re-possesses it; if s/he
is clothed, hir body fulfills the function of clothing; if s/he is naked,
everything is gone, devoured, _spent._

(Is there not a void, rupture, between technology and body, between
superstructure and base, through which desire flows, a mediation which
transform body into fantasy? What I desire is an extension of the world,
its caress; what I desire is loss, and its desire.)

This is a form of giving, this devouring. The avatar body is the _anorec-
tic body,_ the body as absolute signifier, impenetrable; this is the body
of exchange, the body of late capital in which commodification and the
fetish become one and the Same. The pure commodity - the cohesive body -
avatar body - gathers light, reproduces it as a form of abjection.
Abjection, since light and body are no longer being and not-being, self
and not-self, neither one thing nor another (the absent entity which
exists in the temporal interstice of the shutter/ shudder); the avatar
becomes a re-presentation, simultaneously short-circuiting the modeler
(user, engineer, master, baiter) and the everyday. Orgasm flows into the
light; the self coagulates (a promise of coagulation) against the grain of
the negative - the avatar develops, is fixed, annihilated. Engineering and
modeling are the inverted double of the body of the shaman, and the shaman
is androgynous.

Thus engineering and avatar mediate between the real (evidence in the
"scientific" sense) and the imaginary (the eccentric space of the erotic):
an entity embedded into substance, or an entity promising substance and
embedding - an entity existing only in the virtual, as hard as any other

What I am is what I have; what I have is what s/he is; what s/he is, is
what I am; what I am belongs to hir (plateau of skin, flesh of screen of
flesh). What is ceased (embedded) remains in shadow; what is evident
in the light is evidence and light is everywhere. Light embeds and re-
produces; light presences, rewrytes hir again and again.

Back from the engineering, the screen, the model modeler - which provide
the occasion (fulfilled by the event and its descriptions) - there is that
necessary distrust, that focus of excitement, excitation: what can we do
together? What is the _license_ of the image? (What is the arrangement of
my, hir, desire? Hir occasion?) My avatar is arranged, rearranged in
(every conceivable (thus appearing that inversion in which my existence is
presence and loss)) position; it is the heraldic body, emblematic (of its
presence, the presence of substance, father-mother). Clearly hir body is
an opening towards the light; hir body apparent, appears, a parent; s/he
open hir body for me, avatar for you.

I am restrained. In this fashion I hardly know hir, 1 on 1 side of the
screen, 2 on the other. The light becomes a familiar caress (it is not
daylight; it is litigation, the negotiation of the Law in this software,
in this viewer, this hardware wetware); I confess everything. What you
want is what you get. What I engineer is the inverted double, and I
perform for hir. Like a service, I perform for hir, perform for myself,
perform hir. I cannot (to be frank) look in a mirror; I avoid hir eyes. I
perform for dead files which bring hir flesh to life; s/he brings me to
life, the restoration which is the presence of flesh. The memory of flesh.
The memory of non-existent flesh. Flesh is its disembodiment. S/he is the
story which surrounds me. S/he are the beginning of narrative.

What s/he pulls out of me is an object. An avatar. That avatar is an
image, is substance. That avatar cures; s/he is shamanic, mediating the
real against itself. There is nothing spiritual here, in this shamanism;
there is only the presence of desire, arousal, speech, narrative, pathos,
vehemence, intention, the circulating of the real, the collapse of
fantasm, theory, language, against the reality of the flesh and its
excitation. Which becomes a totality, transforms avatar, hir body into
liquidity, the return of the caress.

If I perform for hir, s/he are the proof. If I perform hir. (S/he does me,
does me in.) I was this way, that way. I become hir, hir body, hir organs,
absent, mathetic production (the penetration of simultaneity, the absence
of time). I don't think, didn't think. That slow and deliberate movement.
I offer hir, me. Service. My arms, legs, torso, thighs everywhere. What I
did was slow, unlike me, then frozen. The thing flows; _it_ flows; the
avatar is impotent, insistent; what is the time of the virtual? Time
smears the image (which is completed by perception; it completes me).
Nothing occurs in the engineering; the engineering is all that occurs.
Nothing moves, or is movement a representation?; clocked, the appearance
of movement. (Hey Barthes, maybe the punctum occurs _elsewhere,_ the real
inversion of real flesh occasioned by the avatar - hir image only
residue?) Arrangements, the absence of light, our gifts to each other. My
acknowledgment of 'my' avatar, is never returned, and that is hir power
and the flesh of hir power.

And this anorectic state is the perfect body; the residue is present or
absent, here or there, digital. The shudder of the session from the very
beginning is given purity as the horizon, the endless perfection of
withdrawal. Such withdrawal tends towards denouement, abjection, towards
that horizon which returns the everyday as absolute. Thus the everyday
guarantees abjection; I engineer hir in an hysteric state in which time
stops. My body and hir body - of the anorectic - are carved, carved out;
in body, I gladly spend myself towards the safety and solitude of death.
In both I am hole again.

Carnival, plateau, perforations of the body. Everywhere illuminations. I
desire hir, desire the endless peregrinations of hir engineering, hir
engine, I desire hir presence within me.

So this is a case of theft and desire, like sado-masochism, this is the
desire of the illicit granted by negotiation opening up a forbidden
interiority in which presence is lost and gained. Just as I am always for
work, you are always for production. And this world, lost of late, lost of
capital, is all the capital I have to spend. (So take it fast...the loss
of limbs...irreparable loss...the _fade_ of sexuality...thinking...return
of the engine...avatar caress...others...theirs.....bringing them to
light...bringing them it hole again...)


(revised article from CEPA Journal)

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