Master of Fine Arts
This thesis dossier is separated into the following distinct sections: an extended artist statement; a portfolio documenting artworks made during my MFA candidacy and my exhibit Pharmakon: Acts, Traces, and Maps; and a case study of artist Tony Oursler, whose video and multimedia installations explore the psychological and social relationships between individuals and technologies. Together, they present my exploration of the body’s ‘power of acting,’ or potentia agendi, in relation to the modificatory capacity of technology, or affectus, on the human body. In particular, I investigate the body’s habits, or capacity for habit-building, what Bourdieu calls habitus, and the interconnection between the body and its digital environment, digitus habitus. My installations are built around photographic and video media with which I designed interfaces to allow audience members to engage directly with the disruptive and entropic effects of digital technologies, ranging from cellphone displays to spam, and view the development of so-called digital personas, part of my catalogue of tech-inspired gestures, habits, and faces. The political consequences of the influence of technology are explored in the context of developing resistance to the panoptical interface of technology, a process of mass surveillance and data-harvesting which defines our contemporary relationship with technology. I term pharmakonic those gestures, or technologies, which can offer both further disruption and an opportunity for recircuit, in which the socio-mechanical agency of the body is rewired away from the addictive, decay-driven habits of digital technology towards positive, "negenthropic" habits.
Summary for Lay Audience
The crossroad between body/gesture dispositions/processes and our interaction with new technologies is the main focus of my thesis and installations. I explore Bernard Stiegler’s notion of Pharmakon, or Pharmakonic gestures, which views technological and social change as involving negative, disruptive transformations of the body’s habits/being, which offer simultaneously opportunities for positive recircuits and resistance through the possibility of creating new habits and gestures. My installations explore through photographic and video media the move of the body into its habits, and, in particular, the move from the body as a strict mechanical interface to its existence as a living, social agent. I call this the move from body to being, which under titles my thesis. In my work, I explore a variety of questions: How does a technological determined habit come about? How does a habit break down through entropy? How does recircuiting an anxious habit create a new habit through resistance, or ‘civil disobedience’? My installations allow the audience member’s body to explore the effects of technology directly, while my extended artist statement is my attempt to formalize these effects and define the mobility of the body both mechanically and politically.
Conquy, Jérôme Y. C., "Pharmakon: From Body to Being" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7754.
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