Chapter in:

 _Reload_Rethinking Women + Cyberculture, ed. Mary Flanagan and Austin Booth, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.

‘Doing it digitally: Rosalind Brodsky and the art of the virtual female subject’

by Jyanni Steffensen

 

This essay is an exploration of digital female subjects, cyberfeminisms, fembots and Freud.  It is broadly an intervention in the debate(s) about women and cyberculture.  'Doing it digitally' analyses, from a cyberfeminist, queer, poststructural, and psychoanalytic perspective a virtual, time-travelling subject called Rosalind Brodsky.  Brodsky (RB) is an evolving fictional construction of Australian Anglo/Polish/Jewish painter and digital artist Suzanne Treister. The most sophisticated manifestation of Brodsky to date, the one central to my investigation, is a CD ROM titled  . . . No Other Symptoms: Time Travelling with Rosalind Brodsky (1999).[1]  This hypermedia text was launched, appropriately, at the Freud Museum (Freud's last home), in Hampstead, North London in January 2000. The artist's work - rendered in her characteristically baroque visual and hypertext style - creates a space in which issues of 'insanity' and humour, fetishism and sexuality, subjectivity and technology are negotiated in relation to personal histories/fictions and histories of the twentieth century.  My reading suggests ways of approaching this work that might be useful for feminist theorists.

 

Apart from the extraordinary density and complexity of its multi-media format (text, film, video, sound, music, Treister's painting), No Other Symptoms is composed, postmodernly, almost entirely of intertexts.  The matrix engineered by Treister appropriates thematic concerns from cyberpunk fiction (the fiction of a culture saturated by electronic technology), science fiction, (with its emphasis on time and space travelling), psychoanalytic discourses on gender, sexuality and the oedipal family, political histories and revolutions, and Holocaust narratives of dispossession and genocide.  The female cybersubject configured by Treister as agentic, mobile, and polysignified differs significantly from the traditional masculinist produced female technosubjects in that she is not reproduced as an object of male sexual desire.

 

 Since 1995, Treister has been working on the digitalised Brodsky through whom the artist has, in part, reconfigured the classic oedipal scenario in intertextual (art, psychoanalysis, technology) and intercultural (Anglo-Christian/Eastern European-Jewish) terms.  According to Treister's artist's statement: "Brodsky fetishises history.  She is a necrophiliac invader of spaces containing the deaths of her ancestors, through the privileged violence of technology.  She dresses up like her ancestors, how she thinks they would dress."  Brodsky says: "Sometimes I look for my ancestors in VR. I dress up like them, how I think they dressed. It’s like a form of cross-dressing, I guess."  In contradistinction to traditional masculinist (and most feminist) cyberheroines, Brodsky is Jewish.

 

I will begin by providing a brief outline of Brodsky and her virtual world, before providing some theoretical frameworks in which this character might be understood, and finally moving into a more detailed psychoanalytic reading of how the subject is signified. Treister provides the reader with a biography for her subject that, from Brodsky's birth in 1970, is intimately interwoven with narratives of psychoanalysis and fictions of technoscience. According to the author, RB was born at University College Hospital in central London, the same hospital to which the child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein was taken in her last illness.  In fact, Brodsky claims that as a child, her family lived opposite Klein in Bracknell Gardens in Hampstead.  The young Rosalind used to watch Klein in her front garden, fascinated that the older woman resembled images of her paternal grandmother, Rosalind Blum, who had been killed in the Holocaust.

 

The older Rosalind was educated at St. Martin's College, where she also had a part-time job in the New Technologies and Multimedia department just before her death in 2058. At some time in her career(s) she worked as a technoscientific researcher at the Institute of Militronics and Advanced Time Interventionality (IMATI).  This fictional Institute is working with virtual technologies that render users' bodies invisible in their own time and space.  The main function of the Institute is to develop virtual simulations of key moments in history so that researchers can carry out experimental interventions within these virtual times/worlds.  In conservative academic circles there is considerable resistance to this form of 'anthropological' research. At times Brodsky suffered from high levels of work related stress and was widely thought to harbour delusions of actual time travelling.  However, many of her colleagues at IMATI believed that her virtual travels were authentic, and that she had discovered a methodology for temporal and spatial displacement of her body, ie. that she time-travelled.  Unfortunately, according to Treister's narrative, her body displacement codes are indecipherable at present.

 

Narratology

 

Narratologically, the CD text can most usefully be understood as hypertext fiction, rather than cybertext fiction, in that it's narrative nodes, while multilinear, are not open, technically, to user programming.  Characteristic of hypertexts in that it is composed of bodies of electronically linked multimedia components with no primary axis of organisation, the CD nevertheless offers interactive reading(s) in the Derridean sense.  The hypertext system permits individual readers to choose his or her own centre of investigation from a menu of nodes. The individual reader might configure both RB and the text according to which, and how many, narrative nodes are explored and in which order.

 

The virtual world of Rosalind Brodsky offers up numerous nodal possibilities which might accord with the provisional points of focus of different readers in that RB is a successful technoscientist who carried out major historical research (and experimental interventions) in film, psychoanalysis, music, the Russian Revolution, the 1960s, and Eastern European history.  Her virtual place of residence is a medieval castle based on Konigsschloß Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, a dwelling once occupied by King Ludwig.  She hosted the Rosalind Brodsky Time Travelling Cookery Show for Introscan TV Corporations Network where, in one memorable episode, she disassembled a German Black Forest Cake and remade the ingredients into Polish Pierogi with chocolate and cherry filling.  Wearing her Electronic Time Travelling Costume to rescue her Grandparents from the Holocaust, Brodsky made several attempts to locate her grandparents, on one attempt ending up mistakenly (a systems error occurred) on the film set of Schindler's List (1994).  At some time in history (possibly the late 60s and early 70s) RB fronted a successful rock band called the Satellites of Lvov.  While travelling in the future, she developed an intense interventionist interest in genetically altered food, for instance, Clono Chutney and other products manufactured by Nutragenitica.

 

Epistemologically, this reconfiguration of a female technosubject as an open set of nodal possibilities assembled between writer and reader, resembles poststructural theories of decentered subjectivity. In relation to new media practices the hypertextual construction of the CD-ROM - its interactive user mode of multiple narrative pathways and its extratextual dimensions of multi-media integrated froms  - constitute a set of postmodern feminist signifying practices.  There is no narratalogical, linear goal, no narrative closure that is characteristic of much masculinist cyberdiscourses. Unlike popular cyberheroine's such as Lara Croft, Brodsky is not a "good action hero, unafraid to use an Uzi or throw a grenade when the need arises - that is, all the time."[2] She does not appear in a "nightie" as a reward for the (assumed male) player who finishes the game, as does Croft in Tomb Raider 2. Neither is there any authentic 'woman' up ahead, no essential woman to be reclaimed by feminists from a lost past, and no unified Cartesian self to be constructed in the present.  In psychoanalytic terms, No Other Symptoms constitutes complex matrix of symbolic positions for women other than 'mother', 'phallic woman', 'object of male desire' or 'lack' - that is, the only positions designated to women in the narrative constructions of the (assumed) male subject.

 

Psychoanalysis

 

This multi-dimensionality of the hypertext  resonates with the complexity of the desiring economy of the female techno-subject constructed by Treister. No Other Symptoms constitutes a virtual space in which female subjectivity is signified as phallic -Brodsky's 'weapon' of choice is a set of luxury feature vibrators - but only as part of a polymorphously signified symbolic.  Treister mobilises her ditigal protagonist's vibrators as a point of entry to traditional psychoanalytic technologies of female sexuality to parody and decentre their phallocentric construction.   

 

I will concentrate my reading on Treister's construction of Brodsky's sexed subjectivity as it emerges from her interventionist encounters with the psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and Jacques Lacan.  RB financed her time travelling psychoanalytic excursions through the design, manufacture and sale of her line of unique, luxury, feature vibrators.   The fictional case histories of these sessions are included in the text of No Other Symptoms.  Although the author states that Brodsky's psychoanalysis 'failed', my own analysis of the text(s) suggests that it is difficult to determine conclusively whether RB, on the one hand, or the psychoanalysts, on the other, 'failed' the analysis.  All of the analysts become increasingly anxious when confronted by the significance of Brodsky's technological, female masturbatory devices.

 

There are several options for a player to penetrate to the case histories of Brodsky’s sessions with the analysts.  For instance, from Rosalind Brodsky’s Perpetual Electronic Time Travelling Diary one can >select>A day in 1928 when Brodsky time travelled for a session with Freud in Vienna > select Time Travel> A subsequent visit to Freud in London in 1938 when she finds her feature vibrators have been placed on his desk>select Time Travel> A bar in London, 1964, where Brodsky has gone to recover from her therapy session.  One of the other hypertext pathways to the psychoanalysts’ Clinics is via the closet behind Rosalind's desk at IMATI. From the wardrobe, the CD-ROM interactor can virtually enter Freud's study at Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead eavesdropping on a conversation between the ghosts of Freud and the ghost of his daughter Anna Freud, also a psychoanalyst. They are discussing the time-travelling analysand.  Freud's ghost dematerialises leaving behind a book>select Book> This volume contains Freud's case history of his analysis with Brodsky.

 

The techno-proficient Brodsky will be read queerly as a cyberfeminist parody on the phallocentric signification of both masculinist cyberpunk texts and the classic narratives of psychoanalytic theory.  One of the classic psychoanalytically related scenarios of the cyberpunk construction of masculine subjectivity is the anxiety/desire model enacted in relation to the fantasy of the non-permeability of body boundaries.  In cyberpunk texts, organs are replaced, and various technologies are implanted into bodies and perceptual organs - male cyberpunk characters are penetrated.  The fears and desires that Freud located in the unconscious continue to haunt these cyberpunk characters. In this cyberfeminist reversal, they also queerly haunt Freud whose carefully technologised body of writing on 'feminine' sexuality is metaphorically 'penetrated' by the intrepid cyber-traveller from his technologically unimaginable future.

 

Genre

 

Generically and thematically, No Other Symptoms might be assimilated by, or categorised as, a part of the body of cyberpunk fiction that has emerged since the 1980s.  Cyberpunk is the fiction of a culture saturated by electronic technology.  Its vocabulary is the language of cybernetics, biotechnology, corporational greed and urban subcultures.  Cyberpunk has emerged as more than a term for writers and print text.  It is now employed across a range of media and cultural practices. The term is generally understood as a framework for conceptualising a set of relationships to new technologies.  In psychoanalytic terms this would include an understanding of the complex relationships between shifts in cultural effects under the impact of new technologies and concomitant shifts in subjectivities.

 

Thomas Foster in "Incurably Informed: The Pleasures and Dangers of Cyberpunk" identifies three, sometimes overlapping analytic approaches to cyberpunk fiction.[3] He states that cyberpunk has been studied as a science fiction genre; as a variety of postmodern fiction; and as a site of analysis for cultural studies. He alerts us to the fact that one of the most significant, and overlooked, writers of cyberpunk texts was also a woman - Pat Cadigan.[4]  According to Foster, Cadigan's novel Synners (1991) raises the question of the relations between new technologies, their impact on gendered identities and the cultural logic of postmodernism.[5] Foster points out that the postmodern crisis of universality implied by cyberpunk fiction tends paradoxically to universality (i.e. assumes that the postmodern crisis affects all social subjects equally and in the same fashion).  Of the postmodern "crisis" in general and the questions raised by Cadigan's novel, Foster writes:

 

The postmodern condition of forced signification or being incurably informed is an effect of the postmodern critique of universality - that is, a critique of the unmarked and therefore normative subject position of the middle-class, white male individual.[6]

 

The social situation constructed in cyberpunk fiction is, for Foster, one in which all subjects signify for others, in which all bodies function as signifying surfaces.  The usually universally signifying (unmarked) male body, and phallic (disembodied, transcendent) subjectivity, in other words, finds itself in crisis.  In cyberpunk texts, this situation is usually represented as one of fragmentation or balkanisation.  Cyberpunk fiction poses a world in which cultural diversity and the formation of specific cultural identities is an explicit problem.  Foster raises the question of whether this realignment of the global village constructed by cyberpunk writers offer women and men opportunities to rethink categories of gender and their relation to sexual identities. He also claims that there has been very little specifically feminist cultural criticism on the topic.  I would argue that the way in which Treister constructs Brodsky transculturally, as Anglo/Eastern European/Jewish constitutes a significant intervention into the realm of cyberpunk characters from a culturally critical position.  The construction of this cyber-heroine's vibrator signified sexuality also suggests a point at which gender and sexuality might be re-thought in terms of contemporary technologies.  One might also argue that there has also been too little attention paid to the specific sexualities of male cyberpunk characters from male theorists. 

 

 

One such exception is Andrew Ross who suggests that possibly no anthology so effectively betrays the masculinist values of cyberpunk as the collection titled Semiotext(e) SF. [7] According to Ross, the editors, Rudy Rucker and Peter Lamborn Wilson, commissioned material from contributors whose work had been rejected by more mainstream publications.  Although the editors clearly assembled a range of formerly rejected material, they also produced a volume that loudly proclaimed the gender, ethnic, and racial conservatism of new cyberpunk writers.  Penetrating penises figure prominently on every page in the form of a flip book illustration of the "High Performance Waldo", a penis modelled on "the Biomorph human penis rarely seen beyond the best sex professionals".  Ross argues that this form of cyberpunk fiction offers "the most fully delineated urban fantasies of white male folklore."[8]  He also describes the logic underpinning the fantasies embodied in VR applications where chic French women are made available as flirting partners to help you, the ideal male interactor, perfect your French language skills. In contemporary cyberpunk narratives, as in VR applications, cyberspace heroes are usually men, whose ethnic and /or racial identity, although rarely made explicit, is contextually western, Anglo, heterosexual, (Christian), white.[9]

 

Cyberfeminism

 

In analysing this phenomenon, Anne Balsamo suggests that cyberspace offers such men an enticing retreat from the burdens of their cultural identities.  In this sense, it is apparent that although cyberspace appears to represent a territory free from the burdens of history, it will, in effect, serve as another site for the technological and no less conventional inscription of the gendered, racially marked body.  Despite the fact that VR technologies offer a new stage for the construction and performance of body-based identities, it is likely that old identities will continue to be more comfortable, and thus more frequently reproduced. In other words, the fact that virtual realities and cyberspace offer new information environments does not guarantee that people will use the information in better ways.  It is just as likely that these new technologies will be primarily utilised to tell old stories - stories that reproduce, in high tech guise, traditional narratives of the subject.

 

In thinking about the rearticulation of old identities to new technologies, Balsamo concludes that the virtual body is neither simply a surface upon which are written the dominant narratives of Western culture, nor a representation of cultural ideals.[10]  Balsamo argues that the virtual body has been transformed into the very medium of cultural expression itself, manipulated, digitalised, and technologically constructed in virtual environments. She continues that:

 

Enhanced visualisation technologies make it difficult to continue to think about the material body as a bounded entity, or to continue to distinguish its inside from its outside, its surface from its depth, its aura from its projection. As the virtual body is deployed as a medium of information and encryption, the structural integrity of the material body as a bounded physical object is technologically deconstructed. If we think of the body not as a product, but rather as a process and embodiement as an effect - we can begin to ask questions about how the body is staged differently in different realities. Virtual environments offer a new arena for the staging of the body - what dramas will be played out in these virtual worlds.[11]

 

Treister, like her predecessors, VNS Matrix and their cybergirls ALL NEW GEN and the DNA Sluts,[12] can be read as a concerted effort on the part of cyberfeminist digital artists to transform the masculinist reproduction of female sexed subjectivity.  In these feminist inspired virtual worlds, the female body is staged as active, intelligent, polymorphously sexual.  This constitutes a significant shift from the cyberpunk signification of female subjects as passive objects of male desire (the cyberbimbo), or as a metaphor for technology as 'female', threatening and out-of-control (the fembot/vamp).  In the postfeminist, posthuman virtual worlds suggested by Balsamo the female body is significantly refigured, visually and metaphorically, to present the reader/user with different ways of thinking about women.  The cyberpunk characters and worlds articulated by VNS and Treister can be relocated in a short history of cyberfeminist theoretical and critical interventions.

 

Alice Jardine, writing in 'Of Bodies and Technologies' states that the fields of theories and practices covered by the words 'the body' and 'technology' are enormous.[13]  Firstly for Jardine there are questions of gender and women, especially to the extent that both are frequently absent from discussions of technology and the body - as if men's and women's bodies had been represented in the same way throughout western philosophies and histories, as if women (as historically constructed bodies) had had control over the technology.   In Jardine's account, technology always has to do with the body and thus with gender and women in some form.  She asserts that sexual difference is present when we investigate technology at the level of male fantasy as with the virgin and the vamp, where technology is represented as an asexual virgin mother, neutral, obedient and subservient to man, or as vamp, castrating phallic woman, threatening and out of control.

 

Vamps have a long history in the techno-fictional milieu of literary and cinematic production, appearing in various guises as fembots, as feminine sexualised metaphors for mechanical, industrial and electronic technology. These figures include automata, robots, androids, replicants and the more recent cyborg hybrids of the technotronic age.[14] Claudia Springer notes that with the historical transition from automata (the mechanical) to robots (the industrial) in technocultural production, the significance assigned to artificial beings changed.  "Robots were no longer evaluated as charming mechanical novelties; rather they were evaluated on the basis of what they were capable of doing, either for humans or to humans.  In the late twentieth century, machines have been replaced by intricate systems of microelectronic circuitry." [15]   Within particular masculinist discourses - including cinematic ones - technocultural production becomes associated with fantasies of excessive female sexuality.  Fembots become metaphors for technology run amok, imagined as something like gigantic domestic appliances without a "fuckin' off-switch”[16]

 

Metropolis inaugurates the tradition of urban dystopias in the cinema, associating technology with women's bodies to represent the threat of unleashed female sexuality/robotics.  This tradition is appropriated postmodernly in the intertexts of Blade Runner, and Eve Of Destruction.  Springer argues that even when a film incorporates feminine metaphors for electronic technology, it can still enunciate a misogynistic position.[17] Eve combines electronic imagery from the late twentieth century with the industrial imagery of Metropolis to condemn female sexuality.  Eve 8's, the fembot's, body represents both steely industrial strength and the mysteries of microelectronic circuitry.  She is constructed as a fetishised phallic woman with dangerous internal workings - the Defense Department has installed a nuclear device at the end of a tunnel inside her vagina.  Female sexuality is linked to destruction in the tradition of Metropolis, and both are associated with the inner workings of electronic technology.    

 

As a critical intervention into the historically ubiquitous cultural fantasy of the fembot, the cyberfeminist collective VNS Matrix spurn the 'big hoover sucking up/off mere mortal men' option and imaginatively enter the big body of technology via the micro-option.  In their computer game Game Girl, the player is invited to identify with (among other things) a virus that penetrates and disorders the data banks of Big Daddy Mainframe.  This virus is one manifestation of All New Gen (an omnipotent intelligence).  One might join the DNA Sluts (another manifestation of ANG) in the Alpha bar for a cocktail of G-Slime, served by a male robot, to lubricate the process.[18] 

 

 Cyberfeminist theorists, such as Donna Haraway, Sadie Plant and ZoĎ Sophia/Sofoulis, also imagine and articulate a different relation between body and machine, and between women and technology.  This trajectory is based more on a transgressive strategy and politics which imagines a perverse alliance between women and machines. Taking Jardine's observation that women and machines have come alive and to identity at approximately the same time, Sophia's observation that women and computers are structurally equivalent, that is, user-friendly, and Plant's tale of a paranoid man on television who thundered that "women and robots are taking our jobs," cyberfeminism simply points out the subversive alliance between women and all non-human intelligent activity. Further, they observe the extent to which these connections have always been in place.  Plant writes in 'Cybernetic Hookers' that women and machines have become disloyal - they have begun to think for themselves.  She defines a cyberfeminist end of the millenium as the 'Empire of the Senseless' whose replicunts say: "Fuck him, he was only a man.  Men, especially straight men, aren't worth anything.  Anymore.  In this city, women are just what they always were, prostitutes.  They live together and they do whatever they want to do."[19] Plant defines woman as neither man-made with the dialecticians, biologically fixed with the essentialists, nor wholly absent with the Lacanians.  She is, for Plant, in the process "turned on with the machines."[20]

 

Speaking of contemporary digital arts practice in her essay 'On the Matrix: Cyberfeminist Simulations', Plant also suggests that: ". . . The activities which have been monopolized by male conceptions of creativity and artistic genius now extend into the new multi-media and interactive spaces of the digital arts, women are at the cutting edge of experimentation in these zones".[21] She lists Beth Stryker's Cyberqueer and Ingrid Bachmann and Barbara Layne's Faultine (North America), Linda Dement's Typhoid Mary (Australia) and the French artist Orlan's technobody as instances in which "construct cunts access the controls"(p. 181).  In many ways VNS Matrix, the cyberfeminists and Treister remain critical of the masculinist rationales of cyberculture, while often appropriating the languages of this culture, and continue to rewriting the female technobody in terms more appropriate for contemporary women.

 

Some cyberfeminist theorists began to rethink 'the female body' (understood here as the 'maternal body') as a metaphor in relation to cyberculture.  Cathryn Vasseleu writes in "Virtual Bodies/Virtual Worlds" that in virtual reality, the site of reproduction is relocated from the maternal body to the matrix of cyberspace.[22]  One of the questions asked by the Australian psychoanalytic cyberfeminist ZoĎ Sophia in 'Virtual Corporeality' is: "What place does the female body have in cyber-space?"[23]  Initially, she answers this question in the negative: "Femininity and maternity are present, but displaced onto masculine and corporate technological fertility."  Sophia is not simply conflating the biological (female) and the sociological category of gender (woman) with "femininity" and "maternity."   What Sophia is specifying is a masculine excess which finds expression in feminine and techno-maternal figures, for instance the "womby red brain-womb" of the computer HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey or the womby computer Mother in Alien.  Instead of a female-identified woman, Sophia suggests, we find an Athenoid (daddy's girl), or an emotionally remote, machine-woman. Women in these masculinist scenarios are represented as signs or objects, but not usually as the possessors or subjects of knowledge.  If women and computers are structurally equivalent in a masculinist imaginary, then cyberspace can be imagined within the male computer hacker's imagination as a maternal or a feminine body - a matrix - to be penetrated, cut up and manipulated in quests to appropriate and control resources.  However, on the other hand, argues Sophia, the prospect exists from a feminist perspective for adopting more dialogical and negotiated styles of interacting with computers and other material semiotic actors.  One possible source of fascination with artificial intelligence and technobodies for feminists, women science-fiction writers and techno-artists, suggests Sophia, is that "if these artificial second selves can be loved and accepted as powerful, resistant, speaking subjects, so too might women, long acclaimed as monstrous to conventional categories of self and other."[24]

 

In psychoanalytic terms, Sofoulis mobilises Brodsky’s childhood neighbour Melanie Klein's theories of part-objects (eg. breast, penis); Klein's relocation of primary castration as the loss of the breast (for which the penis might then be a substitute); the 'epistemophilic phase' (imaginary research into the mother's body for good objects – children, faeces, the father’s penis); and the 'femininity complex' of boys as a framework for reading masculinist techno-art mythical productions such as 'womb-brains.' Sofoulis asserts that whereas phallocentric explanations focus on the boy's discovery of woman's lack, equally decisive for subsequent cultural production is the mother-identified pre-oedipal boy's discovery of his own lack of maternal organs of breasts, vagina and womb.[25]  In Klein's narrative of the ‘femininity complex’ of boys, maternal/female organs are targets of envy and appropriation.  But, Sofoulis adds, following Klein, this maternal identification and envy is denied and compensated for by an over-valuation of the phallus and oedipal identification with the father.[26]  Sofoulis continues that the disavowed elements of maternal identification and organ envy are sublimated into "cultural activities in which men play out fantasies of intellectual and technological productions as forms of reproduction, where inventions are brainchildren of 'fertile' minds and men can unite with technologies to produce monsters without the aid of women."[27]  What Sofoulis is driving towards with Klein here is the formulation of a realm of the mythic along with those of the imaginary and the symbolic.  What Sofoulis suggests is that within the context of the idea that maternal identification and envy is repressed from the symbolic order, it is not repressed from cultural production generally, but is rather sublimated into the mythic.  This domain of the mythic includes, for Sofoulis, both technology and art.  From this perspective, Sofoulis reasons, the oedipus complex provides a partial resolution of the boy's femininity complex.  It eases the boy's journey into male dominated spheres of cultural production where pre-oedipal fantasies are legimated as culturally valued activities conducted in the Name-of-the-Father and signified as phallic.  Sofoulis asserts that on closer scrutiny these cultural productions of art and technology bear the marks of a more polymorphous system of significations and fantasies (e.g. anal, oral, maternal).[28] If, as Sofoulis points out, the imaginary ‘femininity complex’ of the boy (ie. his envy of, and fantasmatic appropriation of maternal/female organs) is sublimated in the cultural production of mythic ‘womb-brain’ configurations then one might speculate as a corollary that in a feminine mythic the appropriation of missing male organs might apply.  In "Slime in the Matrix" Sofoulis suggests just that: "If masculine sublimation in technoculture has been about acquiring the missing feminine organs (eg. to make magical brain-wombs), then VNS Matrix images mythically develop the slogan 'Give a girl a spanner' and suggests that feminine sublimation might involve the appropriation of the phallus as a magical symbol."[29]

 

While I do not disagree with Sofoulis’s development of a theory of cybergirl appropriation of the phallus as an imaginary (and powerful) symbol – after all Brodsky manufactures vibrators – one might have reached the same theoretical conclusion by re-examining Freud’s theory of lesbian subjectivity.  By re-reading Freud’s theory of  ‘masculinity complexes’ in women, rather than Klein’s theory of 'femininity complexes' in boys, one can also avoid falling into the trap of conflating 'woman' with 'maternity', that is, assuming the 'female body' to be synomymous with the 'maternal body'.  Reading Freud queerly also permits 'clitoris', rather than 'womb' into the mythical order as a primary signifier.  If the reverse of masculine cybercultural appropriation of 'womb' (as matrix) is the appropriation by female cybercultural producers of the 'phallus'  the mythical dimension of heterosexual procreative sexuality is also reproduced.  My readings of VNS Matrix in 'Slippery metaphors for technoscience', and Treister's No other Symptoms here suggest a more queer spin on the ways in which female cyberartists construct a mythical order and virtually refigure female bodies.

 

 In Freud’s theories, girls who refuse to give up the wish for, or fantasy of, acquiring the missing organ (their already castrated penis) are marked by him as suffering from a 'masculinity complex.'  In his view they tend toward feminism and homosexuality.  In 1924 Freud added to the Three Essays a 'phallic' stage of infantile genital organization in which its difference from adult genital organisations is marked by the primacy of the phallus.[30]  In the symbolic order of adult sexuality, for both sexes, only two genitals, the penis and the vagina, come into account.[31]  The clitoris as a primary signifier of adult female sexuality is repressed in the symbolic organisation of adult sexuality.  However, on the Freudian path to female homosexuality there is a disavowal of women's castration, a refusal to acknowledge the symbolic meaning of sexual difference.  For Freud, female homosexuals refuse the normal path to femininity via acceptance of castration and the transfer of libidinal cathexis from mother to father (via penis envy).  They retain their pre-oedipal phallic (active) sexuality and retain the maternal figure as a model for later object attachments.  In other words she retains the clitoris as her primary sexual organ and continues to love maternal figures.  In this fantasmatic scenario, both mother and daughter could be said to be signified as phallic (powerful) and the clitoris is dragged into the symbolic order as a primary signifier.  Insofar as this fantasmatic scenario could be said to endow female subjects with the magical phallus as well as retain the clitoral signifier, then the female subject could be said to be signified in Sofoulis/Kleinian terms as a cunt-prick.[32]

 

VNS Matrix call a cunt a cunt frequently and explicitly: "we are the modern cunt."  This cyberart collective deploy "pussy" as a form of greeting as in "Salutations, pussy."  Bodily organs and technical processes including cultural and technological production are resignified by this witty foursome - proclaiming themselves as "mercenaries of slime," as "cybercunts" – as extremely slippery metaphors.  References to female genitals and bodily secretions figure significantly in this context both metaphorically in the feminine sublimations in technoculture ("we make art with our cunts") and in the re-writing of female libidinal investments as queer ("I slide into her"). The cunt signified scenarios are not deployed as sites for the production or reproduction of maternity or symbolically inscribed motherhood for women.  They are redeployed as a site for the construction of libidinal pleasures, in sex, in horizontal rather than oedipal (vertical) relationships, in technological production, in sexy technology - a feminised and postfeminist erotics of technocultural production. 

 

The name of the game, in VNS appropriations of future languages, is "in-filtration and re-mapping the possible futures outside the (chromo)phallic patriarchal code." In this imaginative game of infiltration and subversion, of Big Daddy Mainframe, of masculine techno-production and its discourses, VNS appropriate paternal organs, spermatic metaphors, and metaphors of viral infection as well as those references on female genitals and bodily processes.  The DNA Sluts are imaged pumped-up barbie dolls ("muscular hybrids") with laser beams shooting from their clitori.  These may be read as fantasy phalli.  Spermatic and penetrative metaphors are utilised in imaging the mutating female subject as a virus which infiltrates/ penetrates the techno-body of Big Daddy's imperialistically and militaristically deployed data banks, also a 'queer' proposition.

 

The time travelling Brodsky utilises her briefcase (her attaché case) of Vibrators from the House of Brodsky to disorder psychoanalytic thinking.   These objects can also be said to operate in the text as signifiers in a post- Freudian/Lacanian mythical order of female technocultural production as well as a remetaphorisation of the female body in a technological age.  These magical phalli (female fetishes) are also signifiers of infiltration into, and appropriation and remapping of, masculinist codes.  They are objects for penetrating and disrupting the body of psychoanalytic technologies and the narratives of cyberculture.  At no point is the female body metaphorised or mythologised as a maternal body.  Brodsky is constructed as an agentic heroine who penetrates the male dominated body of history in which gender and sexuality have been traditionally constituted and commits her own havoc.  Treister’s ability to simulate (and humorously re-order) the thinking of individual psychoanalytic theorists in relation to Brodsky's technoscientific knowledges and practices could only be described as uncanny.  The case histories are written in the 'voices' of Freud, Klein and the others, and appear, within this virtual world as cannily 'authentic'.

 

Brodsky's analysis began on May 7th 1886 but was suspended until 1928 as there had been a programming malfunction in relation to dates, and Brodsky promised to return when Freud had had time to develop his ideas further. This time lapse also gave Freud time to recover from the trauma of his first encounter with this 21st century female subject.  He admits that he hid his notes lest anyone think he was neurotic for believing his analysand's time travelling capabilities - which is why, apparently, they do not appear in his published writings on female subjectivity and sexuality.  In his notes, Freud records his extreme disturbance in the umheimlich/heimlich   moment of discovering that a highly successful female scientific researcher and business entrepreneur would finance her travels and analysis from the manufacture and sale of mechanical objects designed for female sexual pleasure:

 

Further into the analysis Rosalind arrived one day with some strange objects in her briefcase which she told me she had made herself. When I realised their function I was at first struck down with horror and revulsion for they were mechanical devices for the purpose of masturbation.  Not only this, but at the end of each device was either a human head or a small architectural model.

The most disturbing moment came when I recognised myself in one of these objects…….. (Freud, 1928).

 

At this moment he tells Rosalind that she is depraved and his horror increases when she admits that it was the profits from the sale of these 'contraptions' that had paid for her analysis with him. She then offers him a set as a gift. In attempting to formulate a theory of female subjectivity, Freud tentatively suggests that her motive for constructing these 'unfortunate devices' might be a 'perverted' means of dealing with her repressed fears of her father’s castration (ie his loss of place, Poland, and objects including his murdered mother).  The vibrators then are screens superimposed over the father’s losses that "in turn conceal Rosalind’s repressed fear of her fathers’ castration, the possibility of the actuality of which, if time were reversed, would result in his inability to give birth to her." (Freud, 1928).

 

Brodsky flatly denies this hypothesis, informing Freud that in the 1960s there had been a sexual revolution and that these vibrators would not be considered 'depraved' objects. Venturing to ask his strange analysand if she made use of the vibrators for her own pleasure, she confessed that she did indeed make use of some of them, but not others.  She refuses to divulge her reasons for these choices.  During an earlier session in 1928, Brodsky had revealed to Freud her obsession with Russian history and the Russian Revolution, scenes that she visited repeatedly.  In reply to Freud’s questioning, Brodsky admits that has politically left leanings, but that her father had a hatred of Russia and communism.  He believed that if it had not been the Germans, it would have been the Russians who had been responsible for the death of his parents.  In any case, the Russians were responsible for the loss of his ancestral home in South Eastern Poland which was annexed to the Ukraine in 1939.  Rosalind informs the analyst that 1939 was also the year of his death, but he doesn’t want to know.

 

In reconsidering Rosalind’s obsessions with the Russian Revolution in the light of the vibrators, Freud notes that if her’s, or her paternal grandmother’s, initial, r, was inserted into her father’s name, Max, then it would result in the name Marx.  Freud speculates that this 'linguistic bonding' contains a radical political separation, the separation of Brodsky’s from her father’s political beliefs.  Simultaneously, in conjunction with his previous observations about Brodsky and the vibrators, Freud conjectures that we can conclude that a repression of the political, historical, familial and power conflicts have resulted in a romantic association with the Russian Revolution.  In this scenario, according to the virtual Freud, the figure of Karl Marx (and associated architectural emblems) have come to take on sexual connotations for Rosalind.

 

What Treister ironically foreground in this virtual scenario is that Freud, in his romantic association of sexuality with the familial, repressed political, historical and power conflicts in his theorising of (female)sexed subjectivity.  What emerges as significant in this virtual scenario, in spite of his foray into 'linguistic bonding' theory, is that, unlike the later Lacan, Freud is unable to understand the constitution of the subject in socio-linguistic terms.  Like Lacan, but unlike the later poststructural feminists and cultural critics, Freud struggles to articulate the ubiquitous male subject (the father) in cultural and political, rather than exclusive oedipal terms.  The mother, as always, is absent from his imaginary family structure, and the constitution of the male subject, together with his castration fears is centralised.  In this scenario, Rosalind is imagined, not as a desiring female subject who possesses her own technologically 'phallus', but as 'lack', as a blank screen on which the daughter is reconstituted as her father's phallus.  What is at stake in this encounter is not only Freud's future hold on the patriarchal laws controlling theories of female subjectivity, but also the significance of proliferating modes of female sexuality (eg women + vibrator) and the technological modes of reproduction and transmission of these new sexualities.  Freud's, and the psychoanalyst's monoply on sexual epistemologies is probably undermined fatally.  He is certainly anxious about the significance of  'technological devices'. The couch is being displaced by the modem, possibly to women's advantage.

 

 

In ventriloquising Klein, Brodsky reminds us that the cybernetic discourses on depthlessness as a crucial component of postmodern existence, resulting in human identities as flat as computer and television screens,[33] was foreshadowed by Klein’s own conceptualisation of an unconscious that has not been constructed by repression.  Klein reports, in analysing her countertransferential paranoia, that she feared Brodsky was playing with her own assertion that the past and present were one in terms of the psycho neuroses, time being spatial rather than historical.  Having prempted Baudrillardian and Jamesonian[34] theories, the virtual Klein narrates the function of RB’s 'vibrators' in her own, that is, part-object terms.  The analytic sequences move through various stages titled 'Dream of the ship woman', 'Russian doll', 'Mary Poppins', 'Rosa Klebb', to 'Vibrators'.

 

Klein begins with the analysis of a repeated childhood dream in which an evil masculine woman descended from the sky on a flying galleon, entered through the French windows, kidnapped the young Rosalind from her parents and took her to an unknown place and time.  The 'phallic woman' Klein interprets as representing the combined parent figure, the mother’s body containing the father’s penis.  Fear of, and aggression toward this figure is unresolved for Rosalind in childhood (she is unable to unify ‘good’ and ‘bad’ introjected objects) and at the age of ten she bites deeply into the fingers of her dentist in a physical attempt to introject oedipal love objects.  She admitted that this gave her much satisfaction.

 

On their second meeting Brodsky, having used equipment at IMATI to shrink herself, appears to Klein as a child.  Suspending disbelief, the well-known child analyst offers Rosalind a box of toys to play with.  Brodsky selects a small wooden boy figure and tells Klein that his name is Marx. She then, according to Klein’s notes, proceeded to open the Russian doll and remove the inner dolls, placing the 'Mar'’ doll inside in their place.  The inner dolls she placed in the sink in the corner of Klein’s room and turned on the tap.  She then put the large doll containing 'Marx' into her pocket and left the room abruptly.  Klein speculates that again, inevitably, Brodsky had constructed a combined parent figure, but that this time the replaced father’s penis inside the mother’s body had taken the form of Karl Marx and that the maternal body had taken a Russian identity, although the mother was English.  Hence, the female analyst deduced, Brodsky’s feared external objects (following the phallic woman in the galleon and the dentist) were now connected to Russia and it’s political history.  Klein then connects this, via her own knowledge of the conquest of SE Poland by the Russians in 1939, to the fate of Brodsky’s grandparents.  Therefore, she concludes, the removal and washing of the internal dolls was an obvious attempt to evacuate the mother’ body of both whole and part-objects (faeces, children and the father’s penis).  The ensuing superego imposed guilt, however, then caused Rosalind to wash these objects in an attempted reparation for the anal-sadistic (phallic) act.

 

After several other narrative twists on part-object theory, Klein and Brodsky arrive at the 'vibrators'. After further convoluted theorising, Klein suggests that: "One could see these devices as expulsions of the good and bad objects as gifts in an attempt to replace the stolen faeces and father’s penis which were 'taken' from the mother’s body" (Klein, 1959/2058).  What emerges in Brodsky’s repetitious penetrations of psychoanalytic history is a scenario in which the father’s lacks (losses of place and maternal body) are imaginatively compensated for in the construction of a female fantasy phallus.  These Brodsky offers as 'gifts' to Freud and Klein, opening up a space in which the political and cultural history of the subject might be negotiated, along with the mommy-daddy-me (psychoanalytic) paradigm, in constituting the subject.  What emerges most strongly in Kleinian discourses, and in contradistinction to Fruedian theory, is a protofeminist inclusion of the mother as a significant pre/oedipal figure, for both Brodsky and the father.

 

Along with this shift in psychoanalytic thinking, there also emerges, as Sofoulis suggests, more polymorphous modes of signification of the subject, both male and female. But whereas Sofoulis’ cyberboy is involved in sublimation in technocultural (re)production in an attempt to recoup the feared and desired maternal body in order to produce techno-artifacts, Treister's cybergirl is busily appropriating the phallus in identification with the father in order to enter the body of political history (the mother as Russia) and recoup his losses (the father’s maternal body and place).  In this mythic order, RB identifies with the father and invents super-vibrators in order to penetrate the cyberspatial Matrix and rescue her namesake Rosalind, her prematurely lost grandmother.  While theories of fantasmatically (and technologically) phallicised female subjects have not been embraced unreservedly by traditional feminists, they offer women the possibility of mobilising the power of technological replication to radically undermine constricting constructions of 'femininity'.

 

 This Kleinian, Russian doll version of psychoanalysis and technoculture is given a Treister spin in that her cybergirl is as likely to encounter a systems error in her time travelling efforts to rescue the paternal grandmother from the Holocaust and land on the film set of Schindler’s List.  In other words, the subject in contemporary culture is as likely to be constituted, via filmmaking and new technologies, in 'public' cultural fantasies as well as caught up in the conflicts of the parent's conscious/unconscious desires and anxieties.  This suggests that a proliferating symbolic matrix of multiplying female subjectivities might offer the possibility, as a third term, of an effective break with a male dominated imaginary.  In her dealing with Lacanian theory, Treister points in this direction of a break with the' father'.   

 

What Lacan is determined to uncover is the source of Brodsky’s 'delusions' of time travelling.

What he finds remarkable about Brodsky’s stories is the recurrence of incidents involving films and television programmes.  He remarks in his case history that Brodsky is particularly prone to identifications with characters in science fiction narratives such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Mary Poppins and Blade Runner.  Obsessing on the Doctor Who phenomenon of the TARDIS with its often uncontrollable time and space destinations as a clue to RB’s time travelling 'delusions', Lacan concludes that the dynamic of the relation between Brodsky and the character The Doctor, a Time Lord, caused a split in the symbolic, through which the imaginary erupted in a phantasmatic explosion, destabilising the subject's relation to time and the symbolic order.

 

Although he is no expert in film theory, Lacan nevertheless presses on until be believes he has reconstructed the imaginary scenario for her time travelling delusions.  This involves Brodsky, the mother, the father, the Name-of-the Father, the Other and the objet petit a in what could be an already all too familiar Lacanian narrative of the (universalised, male) subject.  In Lacan's thinking, the Name-of-the- Father (the paternal function signified by the paternal phallus) or third term, severs the (generically male) child from its dual, mutual identificatory relation to the (m)other, sexually differentiates it, and inserts it into the symbolic order (the order of language and meaning) as a socially functional subject.  Lacan argues that the Name-of-the-Father, which embodies and represents the law prohibiting incest and founding patriarchy, provides the support that anchors the subject in the symbolic and prevents it from teetering into the abyss of the Real (the place of birth and obliteration).  The father's name is the linguistic representation of the symbolic order.  Symbolic functioning demands clear lines of demarcation between self and other, order and disorder, proper and improper.  Symbolisation and "proper" social functioning demands a separation between "I" and m(other).  For Lacan, signification (the difference between linguistic signifiers) insinuates itself in place of the absent object(s) - primarily the breast, secondarily the (m)other - the object(s) engendering desire. The imaginary signifier, the phallus, in Lacan's narrativisation of the symbolic order and signification, is posited as the universal signifier of desire.  In Lacan's formulations speech is as dependent upon the notion of lack as is his theory of desire.

 

For Lacan, there is no whole sexual object; fantasy shows that desire always revolves around a part without a whole.  The missing part, objet a, which appears in Lacan's later texts as a formula for the lost object, has been variously theorised as the penis, the maternal penis/phallus, the breast, and as the maternal body.  The objet a is not the object of a drive, including oral, anal, and scopic drives, but the cause of desire.  In Lacan's texts, language substitutes for the lack of/desire for the maternal body.  However, if the phallic signifier has a privileged position in the unconscious, it is not as an objet a (penis, breast, faeces) but in being an object which the mother lacks and desires.   It is the phallus that, according to Lacan, signifies sexual difference.  The phallus also signifies the law of symbolic castration for it belongs to the father, the Other who forbids the enjoyment of the mother-child symbiosis.  Lacan linked the difference between the sexes to a splitting in relation to the mother's lack of the phallus. Through oedipalisation, male and female children are separated from their first love object, the mother, and positioned within the larger socio-symbolic order.  Lacan states that:

 

The objet a is something from which the subject, in order to constitute itself, has separated itself off as organ.  This serves as a symbol of lack, that is to say, of the phallus, not as such, but insofar as it is lacking.  It must, therefore, be an object that is, firstly separable, and secondly, that has some relation to the lack.[35]

 

While the objets a in Lacan's texts belong to the (m)other, the mother as imaginary object, the imaginary place of enjoyment which it is impossible to symbolise, the phallus (barred in the Mother) belongs to the symbolic Other (the Father). The misappropriation of the penis by the phallus in Lacanian terms happens when the penis is removed from its merely anatomical and functional role (urination and insemination) to the role of object, the objet a, in a circuit of demand addressed to the (m)other.  It is then capable of taking on the symbolic role of signifier at the level of desire, an object of unconscious fantasy.[36]  In Lacan's view of the perversions, the barred Other (the Mother) is replaced by the objet a.

 

In writing Brodsky's case history, Treister ventriloquises and de-universalises Lacanian theory.  In this story Lacan is finally convinced to seriously reform his universalising of the Name-of-the- Father and of the objet a and take into account the specificity of RB's hybrid familial heritage and her constitution in a symbolic order in which non-parental (that is public) fantasies proliferate.  In part Brodsky's case history with Lacan reads:

 

In my previous writings I have discussed the idea that the father's intervention to separate the child from the mother is necessary in order to prevent psychosis and perversion.  In this instance I will need to revise this theory for it appears that Brodsky's mother was predominantly absent during her early years [having returned to full time work with overtime], (likewise the father) and that it was in fact the mother (despite and because of her apparent only act of intervention in relation to the masturbating dog) who never successfully intervened to separate the child from the father, a constant provider of food and affection.  Therefore it is consequently from women that Brodsky seeks punishment and enforcement of the law to instate the Name-of-the Mother and it is the father's lack that she seeks to embody which in one sense can be seen as his lost mother [who was murdered in the Holocaust, and whose name was also Rosalind].  Brodsky's scopic drive became extended due to this early absence of the parents, also being a partial cause of her time travelling delusions, encompassing her supposed arrival at and often failure to arrive at the intended destination, in attempts to recover the objet petit a.

 

During one of his notorious short sessions with the time-travelling analysand, Lacan rematerialises on the set of the film Mary Poppins, with Rosalind, Mary, the children and the dog.  He concludes, as only Lacan could, that he must be 'barking mad.' This perversely Jewish parody of Lacanian theory raises some serious questions for psychoanalytic theory in relation to the specificity of histories of the subject, political and familial histories, gender, sexuality, and cultural differences.  In the absence of her working parents, and in spite of her desire for a symbolic mother to separate her from identifying too closely as a male subject, Brodsky is oedipalised (enters the symbolic) finally through the intervention of the television set - the symbolic parent figure of a culture saturated by technology.  This scenario, though comic, points dramatically to a different understanding of a subject constituted in a rapidly technologised symbolic matrix.  The child/subject is separated from identifications/desires in relation to the parents in the oedipal scenario through direct access to 'public' cultural figures. This virtual reality, as emergent process, can be mobilised by women as a matrix of potentialities from which women might download different roles.

 

Treister, through her female cyber-character, ironically throws into stark relief the historical and cultural situatedness of psychoanalytic constrictions of female subjectivity, of Freudian and Lacanian theoretical lack(s) in relation to time, space and the shifting landscape of modes of representational proliferation.  Different cultural stories, such as those told by Treister, present women with the powerful potential to rapidly undermine traditional western masculinist reproductions of the female subject (actual or digital) and her position in the technocultural (including psychoanalytic) narratives of the 21st century.

 

 

 

Author’s biographical note:

 

Dr. Jyanni Steffensen is an ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department for Social Inquiry (Gender Studies, Labour Studies) at the University of Adelaide, Australia.  She is currently working on a project titled 'Queer Machines: Narratives of the Subject in Technoculture’ which examines the ways in which the body, gender and sexuality are imaginatively and narratively (re)constructed in various artistic and scientific discourses.  Virtual subjects for analysis have been selected from the creative ideas and practices in experimental arts and technology (eg Suzanne Treister’s Rosalind Brodsky and Francesca da Rimini’s gashgirl), scientific softbots (artificially intelligent programs) and hardbots (robots), and some of the fantasy figures of science-fiction cinema (eg replicants, cyborgs, fembots).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Suzanne Treister, . . . No Other Symptoms: Time Travelling with Rosalind Brodsky, London: Black Dog Publishing, 1999.  The CD ROM project was produced with the Australian Film Commission and assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. The genesis of the Brodsky project can be visited at http://www.ensemble.va.com.au/tableau/suzy/

[2] See Richard Kelly Heft, "Pixel-Packin' MaMa", The Weekend Australian, February 21-22, 1998, p. 7.

[3] Foster, p. 6.

[4]  See Thomas Foster's introduction,"Incurably Informed: The Pleasures and Dangers of Cyberpunk," in Genders 18 , pp. 1-10

[5] Foster, p. 1.

[6] Foster, p. 2.

[7] Rudy Rucker and Peter Lamborn Wilson, eds., Semiotext(e) SF 5.2 (1989).

[8] Andrew Ross, 'Cyberpunks in Boystown,' Strange Weather: Culture, Science and Technology in the Age of Limits (London: Verso, 1991).

[9] For a more detailed critique of both Semiotext(e) SF and Ross' essay see Anne Balsamo. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996), pp.129-32

[10] Balsamo, op.cit.,  p. 131.

[11] ibid..

[12] VNS Matrix, All New Gen and Game Girl, installation and computer game, Adelaide: Experimental Art Foundation, 21 October - 21 November, 1993. For a more detailed analysis of VNS's work see Jyanni Steffensen, 'Slippery metaphors for technology: "the cliroris is a direct line to the Matrix"'. Online http://www.va.com.au/ensemble/array/steff.html 

[13]  Alice Jardine, "Of Bodies and Technologies", Discussions in Contemoporary Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1987), pp. 151-58.

[14]  For a critique of the interchangeable use of the terms robot, android and cyborg see Claudia Springer, ‘Muscular Circuitry: The Invincible Armored Cyborg in Cinema’, in Genders 18 Cyberpunk: Technologies of Cultural Identity (Winter 1993), p. 87. The prototypical model for technoscientific figures is, of course, Mary Shelley's patch-work monster from Frankenstein  (1818). This novella constitutes something of a framing narrative for many contemporary western science fiction, technocultural and cyberpunk discourses and practices.  Specific fembots include the mechanical doll, Olympia, from E.T.A. Hoffman's storyThe Sandman  (1816), analysed by Sigmund Freud in his essay, ‘The Uncanny’ (1919) and filmed by George MéliŹs (1903), and Powell & Pressberger (1951); the robot, Maria, from Fritz Lang's Metropolis  (1926); the replicants Pris and Zhora from  Ridley Scott's Blade Runner  (1982 and 1992); and the cyborg Eve 8 from Duncan Gibbins' film Eve of Destruction (1990).

[15] Claudia Springer, 'Muscular Circuitry', p. 90

[16] Masculine potency is articulated in the film Eve of Destruction through Special Agent Jim McQuade’s ability to locate the rampaging female cyborg’s ‘fuckin’ off switch.’

[17] Springer, op. cit, p. 97

[18] Game Girl was part of VNS Matrix’s mixed media installation.

[19] Sadie Plant, 'Cybernetic Hookers,' paper delivered at the Future Languages day of Artist's Week, The Adelaide Festival of the Arts, 1994. Published in the Australian Network for Art and Technology Newsletter (April/May 1994), p5.

[20]  Plant, 'Cybernetic Hookers,' p. 5.

[21] Sadie Plant, 'On the Matrix: Cyberfeminist Simulations' Cultures of the Internet: Virtual Spaces, Real Histories, Living Bodies, ed. Rob Shields (London, Thousand Oaks, New delhi: Sage Publications, 1996), pp170-83.

[22]  Cathryn Vasseleu, 'Virtual Bodies/Virtual Worlds', Australian Feminist Studies 19 (Autumn 1994): 166.  Vasseleu defines 'Cyberspace' as the space within the electronic network of computers from which virtual realities can be made. 'Virtual realities' she defines as computer generated systems which use cyberspace to simulate various aspects of interactive space (i.e. they are inhabitable computer systems of space).

[23]  ZoĎ Sophia, 'Virtual Corporeality: A Feminist View,' Australian Feminist Studies 15 (Autumn, 1992), p. 15

[24]  ibid., p. 16.

[25]  ZoĎ Sofoulis, 'Slime in the Matrix: Post-Phallic Formations in Women's Art in New Media', The Jane Gallop Seminar Papers, ed. Jill Julius Matthews (Canberra: Australian National University, 1994) p. 91.

[26]  Ibid. See also Melanie Klein [1928], in Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works (London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1975), p. 191.

[27]Ibid.

[28]Ibid. p. 92

[29] Ibid, p. 100.

[30] Sigmund Freud [1905], Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, The Standard Edition, Vol. 17, trans. James Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press, 1962), pp. 123-243.

[31] Sigmund Freud [1920], 'The Infantile Genital Organization: (An Interpolation into the Theory of Sexuality)', SE 19, p 142.

[32] See Jane Gallop's reading of a passage in Lacan's Ecrits, pp. 735-6 in which Lacan poses the question: " Is it this privilege of the signifier [the phallus] that Freud is aiming at by suggesting that there is perhaps only one libido and that it is marked with the male sign?" Immediately following this rhetorical question Lacan uses at least four words beginning with the prefix "con" which Gallop points out means "cunt" in colloquial French. In other words every time Lacan asserts the privilege of the phallus the sublimated cunt emerges in his text. Gallop refers to Lacan as "a ladies' man," "a shameless floozie," and a "cunt-prick." Jane Gallop, Feminism and Psychoanalysis: The Daughter's Seduction (London: MacMillan, 1982), p. 31.

[33] See Jean Baudrillard, Xerox and Infinity, trans. Agitac, London, 1988, p. 7.

[34] As Federic Jameson points out, we are experiencing cultural depthlessness in the form of historical amnesia, the inability to rember our cultural history.  According to Jameson, history has been reduced to a perpetual present in which artifacts from the past are commodified for consumption but have lost the meanings provided by their original contexts.  Together with Baudrillard’s notion of postmodernisms flattened perspective, the technotronic age could be said to produce a computer terminal identity.  See Frederic Jameson, ‘Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of late capitalism,’ New  Left Review 146 (July-August, 1984): 53-92.

[35] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (London: Hogarth Press, 1977), p.103.

[36]  For a detailed feminist reading of Lacan see Elizabeth Grosz, Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction (London: Routledge, 1990)

 

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