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From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance



From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance by lukerobertmason

Research companion to the performance piece ‘ESS [re]Code’

Performed by Luke Robert Mason on the 25th February 2011 at the University of Warwick, Milburn House, Capital Centre Studio between 18:30 and 21:30.


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

Abstract Four letters in extended sequence yield the blueprint of the human body. With another 22 or more letters the human mind is beginning to be inscribed, byte by byte, on tiny areas of magnetic disks located and across the globe. We have read the body, but performing the mind is an external symbolic affair - etching private memories, thoughts and desires onto non-volatile

storage media, a process consuming ever more of our time to the point where we might legitimately look to the record of these actions to discern our histories and anticipate our futures. This paper analyses how Luke Robert Mason’s performance of “ESS [re]Code” alludes to the transhumanist concept of mind uploading - an emulated performance of identity.

Introduction “…in giving way to documents (and analysis) artists are losing hold of their work – that the voices of academia posit readings over which the artists have no control, readings which claim a single authority and readings which distance viewers from the work itself” -Tim Etchells1

To write about notions of coding, transhumanism, technology and consciousness requires some common understanding of these concepts and calls for some sort of definition for this journey to begin on an equal footing. I would argue, however, that the experiential nature of the performance and indeed this text, that accompanies, should allow the audience, or reader, to establish their own definitions of these concepts. Alternatively, for the ‘incurably curious’2, Wikipedia provides perfectly eloquent definitions which are built upon the pluralist knowledge that I advocate here and within ESS [re]Code.3

If academic text is parented by research the question I will attempt to answer is: to

what extent can performance be its adopted child? My shameless bias towards the use of quotation in the construction of this work lies with a desire to underlay the interdisciplinary nature of the research. It was the work of various practitioners from mixed disciplines that influenced the final performance and as Andy Miah advocates, “we no longer need specialist knowledge, but transdisiplinary creative solutions.”4 However, I would argue the final product was neither ‘trans’ nor ‘inter’ disciplinary but instead exists as a form of ‘anti-disciplinary’ art, an ephemeral event evoking an experience that the spectator has full agency to divorce from the content, even if that aesthetic construct is, inevitably, the bastard child of academic research. Post-structuralist in nature, this text is not written with the conscious intention of bewildering or intimidating the reader with the concepts behind transhumanist ideology.5

Instead the style is absorbed with the ideology, and becomes an integral part of the discourse of digital cultures, which favor the distracted chopping, changing and hyper-linking of knowledge. Of course, I may fail in this endeavor and content may be confused with jargon. But this is an experiment. One in which the outcome is not empirical. Like any experiment, it has the right to fail.

As far as turning this text into an aesthetically ‘creative’ response I have embraced the

feeble gimmick of posting the text on the web - where it can be read interactively, immersed amongst a plethora of other distractions, links and biases based on the keywords and concepts found on these pages. Please let me know if you find anything of interest, which may add to the efficacy of this work.

‘Rhetorical Sculptures’ “Stelarc’s statements, seen as separate from his actions, seem to generate a proliferation of disembodied fantasies, as if we could leap from the body into to virtual reality and never return”

-Edward Sheer6


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

“Hello? Hello?”7 A voice. Modulated by the biological movements of the throat, tongue and lips a modulation being accomplished by the changing form of the cavity of the mouth and nose through the action of muscles, which move their walls. I speak into the microphone. Minute acoustical pressure waves are converted into an electrical voltage wave, which is subsequently digitized into a bit-stream, transmitted across the web and into a virtual environment in which 23, Natasha is Online - 24, Natasha is Offline - 23, avatars sit in wait. Their human counterparts are the receiver of this data. Their speakers vibrate sending a wave of pressure fluctuation through the atmosphere. The fluctuation reaches the user’s ear vibrating the eardrum back and forth. The brain interprets this motion as sound and makes sense of its meaning. This is the uploading and downloading of an idea formed in my mind and of consciousness. An idea that transcends the positional limits of my brain. But how do we measure the extent of this transcendence? By the location of the server, or the illusion of a reality created in cyberspace? Concepts will be shared. A possibility will later be performed. My work-in-progress lecture has begun. As a point of departure I would like to appropriate Edward Sheer’s concept of ‘rhetorical sculptures’ to refer to both the lecture given on the 17th of November 20108 and, more importantly, the subsequent text that will follow. The voice within this text shifts from

anecdote to critical analysis but tries to stand alone, disconnect, from the very experience of ESS

[re]Code. It accompanies the performance but chooses to go some way in allowing for a ‘fantasy’ of possibility removed from the neuro-technological limitations imposed during the moment of work. After all, if mind uploading were possible, existed, and had it's own instantly identifiable medical process this would have undoubtedly, subconsciously, influenced the aesthetics I would have used.

I would argue that ESS [re]Code was, and still is, a mere work-in-progress that leaves

itself open, and indeed actively invites, and flirts, with the influence of future or emerging

technology. The text and the performance are both machines - “What is a machine, again? Deleuze and Guattari insist that machines are fundamentally made of connection, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”9 The key is to find what connects this text to the performance, like a

gun connects flesh and metal at a distance. To use this metaphor we must acknowledge the constant - the bullet - the initial idea. But whether this is fired from the gun at a ninety-degree angle or is simply dropped from the height that the gun is held, it must be acknowledged that the force of gravity is also constant. Both bullets will be pulled down vertically at the same speed, regardless of its horizontal speed, and so they will both hit the ground simultaneously. So is the velocity of the idea not important if the final result occurs at the same time? I would argue “velocitation” is something that should be acknowledged in the creativeresearch process. Indeed if I draw on Terry Flaxton’s10 recent appropriation of the term its importance is highlighted: “Velocitation is caused by long periods of high speed travel. The eyes become fatigued in the horizontal plane to images streaming through the windscreen. Velocitation can be noticed when entering built-up areas after long periods of country driving. The speed drop from 100 km/hr to 60 km/hr makes the driver think the car is going much slower (maybe walking pace). The eyes can no longer judge horizontal velocity correctly and as such cannot judge safe following distances. The only remedy is to stop the images streaming through the windscreen, to do this stop and park for several minutes to allow the eyes to rest.”

-Gabriiel Gonzalez11

Flaxton uses this term to describe the relationship between the analogue and virtual, “Velocitation is the analogue response to the digital world and when acclimatized, we will learn to adapt and become comfortable with the speed of transition.” Indeed, ‘velocitation’ was the state I was experiencing following my work-in-progress talk. The rhetoric of transhumanism had served to excite, and exorcise, anticipation for the possibility of future technology. But to


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

critique this artistically required the need to ‘stop and park for several minutes to allow the eyes [and mind] to rest.’ However, this speed, which manifested a confusion of translation of academia into

performance, was key to the creative process. This transitional stage was caught between a

rejection of the context and the creation of a ‘pure’ aesthetics of transhumanism. Imagery by posthumanist artists – such as Stelarc - was shamelessly reproduced through a process that resembled a neo-Aristotlean understanding of art – in which its merit was understood by the quality the imitation, rather than the quality of the vision, imagination and creative intelligence of the artist.12 Suspension. Body amplification. Cyber-Punk, Cyber-Delic, soundtracks13. Visions of dystopian technological futures. Gas masks. 50’s B-movie visions of nuclear fall out. Were all shamelessly reproduced, influenced by the aesthetically striking hyper-realities14 that, due to the organisation of the web, seem to associate themselves with a critique of transhumanism. Empirical studies of the current technological limitations of the ideas behind transhumanism are, after-all, situated in a reality, which is only a ‘pale imitation.’ But this desire to meld science fiction and science fact is not a weakness of the work. I would argue that it is an approach that should be embraced in order to develop ‘new forms,’ after all Baudrillard’s ‘hyper-reality’ is an inescapable condition of the technologically advanced postmodern cultures of the west. It is a

fact of life and a producer of knowledge (even if this knowledge traverses the line between fact and hoax). But then again as the recorded voice over in ESS [re]Code declares, “This is a performance, this is a hoax, this is a performance of a hoax.”15

Traversing the Transhuman “The illusion of separate inviolable identity limits your perceptions and confines you in time. You live in other people and other people live in you; visiting we call it”

-William S Burroughs16

To traverse the line between theatre and performance is to traverse the transhuman. “‘Uploading,’ the desire to be wetware, makes possible a new technology of the self, one fractured by the exteriority of the future,”17 to evoke the anticipation for this new technological possibility one must fittingly embrace the technology of the theatre that, like its electronic counterpart, serves to evoke illusion, and abstracts the material - offering a new understanding through virtuality. Within this crude VR the human can be manipulated as easily the perfect on/off language of binary, on which the virtual is built. But to assert the ‘possibility’ and remove the work from total fantasy (fiction) one must simultaneously destroy the theatre and evoke simulation of the real, as Casson advocates, "destroy your local theatre, beat up an actor and discover the real London underground."18 The









sentimentality, intimacy, embarrassment must, in contradiction, be rejected. There must be something real, something at stake in the ephemeral moment at which the performance occurs. “‘Coding Consciousness’ represents both the great challenge and great limitation of technology. My aim is to look at how performance can transcend these current technological limitations and utter suggestions as to the creative application of life without boundaries – creating a mind free to transcend positional limits by embodying technology.”

-Luke Robert Mason, Dissertation Proposal19

To instill a desire for transcendence requires a process of extraction. A positioning of the human as something that is not just situated ‘in’ biology but something external. Thus giving rise to the title of the piece, that is important to analyse due to its close relation to the thematic.


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

E.S.S. refers to various transhumanist ideas and connotations including ‘Emerging Singularity Scenario,’ ‘Extreme Simulation Scenario,’20 and ‘External Symbolic Storage.’ The latter

concept having been defined by cognitive scientist Merlin Donald in his work Origin of the

Modern Mind:

“The growth of the external memory system has now so far outpaced biological memory that it is no exaggeration to say that we are permanently wedded to our great invention, in a cognitive symbiosis unique in nature.”

-Merlin Donald21

Implicit in this concept is an idea of being ‘permanently wedded’ to external sources of memory a concept that has become increasingly pervasive through the construction of the digital ‘second

self’22 But at the crux of ESS [re]Code is the concept that this is nothing new23 – instead the work highlights the possibility for the digital extrapolation of the trend which will (if the trend line is correct) inevitably lead to the possibility of mind uploading, in which consciousness can exist within another post-biological (perhaps silicon) substrate. This is an idea that is empirically entertained by Whole Brain Emulation: A Road Map24 by Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom – a source that interestingly references an Appendix (D, pg 105) of works from the fiction genre.

Slighting STELARC “The basic contradictions of all of Stelarc’s actions consist in their returning to the image of the artist’s body in a way that reinforces the effect of its presence...[this body] remains open in its connections with the world and its agencies are disturbingly dispersed. But if we ignore the performances and focus on his rhetorical productions presence becomes only a detour for Stelarc.” -Edward Sheer25

The provocation, that my work could only exist in the light of Stelarc’s Suspension Piece (19761989) created a conflict in how I understood possible interpretations of my work by the audience. The fundamental challenge that arose during the devising process was how to frame the artist whilst advocating that the ‘body is obsolete.’ The elevated condition of the artist’s body only served to position it as something of significance. In addition the possibility to read western Judo-Christian connotations into its arrangement were dangerous to the understanding of the underlying themes within the work.

Instead what was important in ESS [re]Code was the space ‘in-between’ – a liminal

space between the suspended body (a form of ESS) and the audience member. It is here that exchange occurs and subsequently where communication flows exist (especially for those who shared a memory and/or the sound of their biology). Sheer understands Stelarc as a, “soft machine: there is a reassuring curve to his belly, the comforting expanse of his baldness.”26 However, unlike Stelarc’s work my body was not to be read as a ‘soft machine’ but something ‘other’ than biology as a storage device. As something computational. This required a process of de-humanisation – one achieved through logistics of the suspension whereby the arms hung down and the face could not be seen – thus no emotions could be relayed. Reflection of the spectator (something divorced from Stelarc’s practice) was important. Both the artist and audience member were dressed in similar clothing, which served to encourage the connection between the two. It is at this point I must acknowledge that in writing about the experience of being suspended the intrinsic now extrinsic. A process of deconstruction is occurring. The underlying want: to divorce my body from any humanistic quality, has been deterritorialized when my thoughts, as the artist, are being shared through this text. Again I urge for this written document to exist separate from the possibilities allowed at the point of performance. To be asked, and indeed to answer, the question, ‘What was it like [to be suspended up there]?’ would invalidate the whole performance. Nothing about my body is important if I choose to advocate


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

that by body is obsolete. I instead turn the focus to the processes - all of which were a product of technology. From the ropes suspending me, to the speakers playing the audio, to the heartbeat of the audience. To ask what the performance was like from my perspective would be for me to refer you to my research and ask – what do you think it would be like for you?

This is why I am only willing to borrow Stelarc’s argument that ideas can only be authenticated through physical action. He goes on to argue that, aesthetic is concerned with the activation of sense perceptions rather than the construction of the beautiful. But rather than the sense perceptions of the artist being activated, it was the kinesthesia of the audience that was important - activated, through a process of hacking: hacking biology and hacking the human.

Hacking the Human “The posthuman body is therefore a body authored by its technologies, which is also retelling and reconfiguring what it means to be human”

-Julie Clarke27

"…men at once become fascinated by any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves."

-Marshall McLuhan28

Key to the work was the positioning of the subject in relation to the augmentations that were essential to the aesthetic of the performance. I chose to augment the heart and breathing of the audience member - two processes indicative of the body’s condition. The wireless attachment of these microphones served to enhance the body acoustically creating an exchange between biology and environment. The uncanny experience of hearing one’s own heartbeat served to create an ontological response to biology whilst, paradoxically aimed to reduce the body to nothing more than a mere set of mechanic processes. A couple of moments are given to listen before the music begins, these moments fashion an irresistible fascination with the self - a reexploration of ‘the body you thought you knew intimately’. At this point a stripping back of any thoughts or baggage that may have been brought into to the performance occurs – a technologically mediated process of connecting one’s self to the moment. The motivation for this immersion was born, not only from performance practice but, more importantly, from digital gaming discourse: “Performative involvement relates to all modes of avatar or game piece control, ranging from learning controls to the fluency of internalised movement. This frame of involvement requires more conscious attention when the controls call attention to themselves, either because the player hasn’t fully mastered them or because a situation demands a complex sequence of actions that are challenging to the player.”

-Gordon Callej29

ESS [re]Code resembled a form of game play even if its content processed some theatricality. The spectator was asked to add doppler microphones to their body, wear boiler suits and a gasmask and drink a shot of tequila30. On entering the space a choice was given to, “be whoever you want to be.” The process of acclimatization was one in which ‘learning the controls’ became key to understanding the piece. Indeed the devices and augmentations ‘called attention to themselves’ in the first instance – but often audience members would quickly understand that they could easily manipulate the intensity of the soundscape through control of both their heart and breathing.

The Right to Fail “‘If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? -Albert Einstein31


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

So I return to the question of: Can the practice of research inform performance and can the performance of research inform a practice? As Stelarc would advocate, there is a point at which the thinking has to stop and the action begins – but my difficulty exists with the framing of this

action. Indeed, ESS [re]Code foregrounded the experience of a single audience member. However, a larger audience was invited to watch the performance (and the transitions between each one-on-one encounter) from a raised viewing window. This space could be entered at any time during the three-hour total duration of the performance work. The choice to allow some audience members to experience the piece in this way served to mimic the empirical gaze of the scientist. The performance itself was an experiment, albeit one informed by qualitative research. It had the right to fail. I resent any parallel drawn between this element of the work and Brecht’s Epic Theatre. This was not about showing the ‘workings of the theatre’ – but about showing the realities of the research and the apparatus of the experiment. Indeed anomalous results did occur with an unplanned fire alarm disrupting the logistical flow of the performance. But I have every right to ‘glamorize [my] messes’32 and although I am still in conflict as to whether this temporary disruption added anything of note to the content of my performance, one thing is clear, the mobilization of people from the entire (and unusually busy) building augmented the performance, and the experiment, outside and away from the ‘controlled safety’ of the studio. There was a feeling amongst those who had been forced to leave the building, from adjacent rooms, that ‘something had occurred’, but they had no conception of what exactly. Of course they knew the fire alarm had gone off – but there was confusion as to what element of my ‘experiment’ could have caused this result. However, I advocate that confusion such as this needed to permeate every aspect of the piece – as confusion forces a creative process of immediate translation and interpretation - safety nets, and excuses, for understanding.

This is a Hoax “‘You’ are inside the simulation, at first disorientated but soon beginning to realize what you already knew: that you were going to participate in a mind upload. Perhaps initially you will miss your real family, friends, house, and the surroundings that all give us a sense of belonging, of feeling human. Several things may happen, and the possibility of a new and unexplored digital mental illness may ensue, something along the lines of a digital cabin fever. This is, of course, a worse case scenario” “"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences"

-Jose Fernandez Lopategui33

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

-W.I. Thomas34 —T. S. Eliot35

What was ‘real’ at the point of performance is a discussion I feel requires some, if only brief, analysis. I have already touched upon the reality of an absence of a technology, which would allow for an actual mind-upload to occur – thus divorcing the work from pure performance and positioning it on the border of theatre. Instead, I invited a single memory to be shared – one that would be stored in the ephemeral moment. However, a choice was given to accept this invitation. An artist can never have full agency, or cartesian control, over their audience, and despite inducing visceral feelings through amplifying the body, I could never be sure what form these feelings would take. Thus, key instructions populated the disembodied voice over: “This is a hoax, this is a performance, this is a performance of a hoax.”/ “You have a choice, you have no choice, you have a choice.”/ “This voice you hear is a recording, this performance will occur with or without you.”


-ESS [re]Code

From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

The choice, to accept the circumstances and to participate in the performance was given over to the spectator. The fact remained that it was technology that had ownership over the form of the work. The recording was set, digitalised, copied and at the moment of playback it could not be stopped nor restarted. The presence of the spectator was insignificant to the lineal unfolding of the performance. The bodies only served to occupy space and create the outward aspects of the work defined by the boundaries of exchange and passages of information between them. The importance of this presence was further highlighted by the acknowledgement that the aesthetic was only complete at the point at which spectator entered the space, whereby the heartbeat and breathing, and the metaphorical meanings of these representations, completed the content.

Provocation of Possibilities “Within uploading discourse this anticipation of the materiality of simulation – not what software is, but what it is contingently capable of becoming – shatters the present, and disorients identity”

-Richard Doyle36

“What joins me to [another] is the impossible… the desire that goads us to go further than the

heart can bear,’ the impossible produces ‘a mixture of panic, expectation, audacity, anguish (more rarely, exasperating sensuality), which only action can resolve”

-Georges Bataille37

My original drive to find a ‘transhumanist aesthetic’ was a call to find new forms of representation, which can embody the anticipation for descendants who are post humans, "future beings whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."38 Of course the content of this future is uncertain and thus is why so much artwork39 born from these ideas tends to be conceptual rather than embodied. Although, I still hold allegiance to my own definition of transhumanist aesthetics, “utilizing today’s technologies to extrapolate and explore future technologies with an eye to foregrounding their social impacts,”40 I would query a need to ‘foreground’ social impacts. Social impact analysis is something, which is being done successfully by bio-ethicists in academia. Surely the artist should not just merely position himself or herself to represent cultural developments but instead commit themselves to cultural engineering. To create an ultra-vivid amalgam of text/ visuals/ sound. To libidinise academia.41 In order to become a cultural engineer I would argue my work needed to position itself more firmly in performance discourse, for something more to be at stake. A possible concept, which was subsequently suppressed on ethical and medical grounds, was the complete removal of consciousness from the body through the use of general anesthesia. Although consciousness would not be located in another substrate this would have been a step closer to representing the body as an obsolete storage device for consciousness. Transhumanist art can never be a fixed form whilst operating in a present of terminal velocity and future of increasing acceleration - anticipation is always key. A transhuman future can never arrive as to be ‘transient’ it has to be in a constant state of moving ‘beyond.’ The fact remains transhuman aesthetics must be about the overcoming of impossibility through compromised means – despite, or because of, its inevitable failure.

Concluding Statement “The cut up – literally chopping up text and rearranging it – decomposes the consciousness of the ‘author’ Burroughs, even as it distributes the Burroughs effects”


-Richard Doyle42

From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

And so we return to the preoccupation with the text. Foucault’s concept of ‘technologies of the self’ are linked to the emergence of writing an activity that fashions subjectivity and a way in which to transform the self to attain, amongst other things, a state of immortality: “Taking care of oneself became linked to a constant writing activity. The self is something to write about, a thing or an object (subject) of writing activity”

-Michael Foucault43

Equally, once shared on the web this text will immortalize the performance of ESS [re]Code and remain as the only document of its occurrence. Of course there is also the documentation of moving and still image – but this only serves to construct an extrinsic layer of framing onto the work, one that is entirely divorced from the artist and the full immersion of experience. Although Foucault esteems writing as a favored ‘technology of the self’ it remains obsolete in the context of performance documentation. In light of Burroughs concept of multiplicity, the ‘illusion of separate inviolable identity’. I would argue that content, like identity, can exist in various forms (and indeed substrates). The ‘Burroughs effect’ is a process of translation in which his work transfigured into various mediums such as text, film, books and music. It is through these forms that the work “encounters the difference of these other contexts and is ultimately affected and transformed by them.”44 As Doyle claims, Burroughs’s route to the ‘immortality’ he writes about is to become ‘adrift’ by having his writings (and therefore elements of his ‘self’ and ‘identity’) living on through other forms of media. Equally, this textual work is a way in which to immortalize and ‘emulate’ the ephemerality performance. Uploading discourse is, after all, about preservation and documentation of the constantly changeable, ephemeral self. Similarly, as human consciousness cannot [yet] be coded into the perfect binary language of virtuality, the performance can never be fully captured and emulated through the limitations of text and language, a form too wrought with imperfection and symbolic interpretation. Language is a poor medium for documentation of live art and serves only to drag, “down the ephemeral into the fossilizing mud of all that is fixed and fixing.”45 I conclude with a warning: Those who believe my initial hoax that this text is, fundamentally, divorced from the performance work must bear in mind the influence of fact that I knew this write-up would need to be written following the event. Both the performance and this accompanying text have been created in acknowledgement of each other and of the rules and constraints of assessment. But why not embrace these subconscious influences? After all, I urge the possibility for multiplicity and embrace the contradiction that may arise from it.


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

Works Cited Baudrillard, Jean. (1985) Glaser, Sheila Faria (trans) (1995) Simulacres et Simulation (USA: University of Michigan Press) Bostrom, Nick (2003) Transhumanist FAQ (World Transhumanist Association) Available here: Bukatmann, Scott (1993), Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham: Duke University Press) Burroughs, William S. (1993), “Immortality,” in The Adding Machine Calleja, Gordon (2007), ‘Revising Immersion: A Conceptual Model for the Analysis’ of Digital Game Involvement in Situated Play, Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference, 85 Available at: Clark, Andy. 2003. Natural Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence. New York: Oxford University Press. Donald Merlin (1991), Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press) Doyle, Richard (2003), Wetwares: Experiments in Postvital Living (Minneapolis.London: University of Minnesotta Press) Etchells, Tim (1999). Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment (USA: Routledge) Haney, William S., 2006. Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciousness and the Post Human (Rodopi B.V., Amseterdam: New York) Johnson, Dominic (2007) ‘It Only Hurts Because It’s True: Recent Live Art and Performance in the UK’, Western European Stages, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter), pp. 9-14. Lopategui, Jose Fernandez (2010) Digital Dystopia (United States: LuLu Press) Marshall McLuhan (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd) Packer, Randall and Jordan, Ken. 2002. Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality (Norton & Company: USA) Reynolds, Simon (2000) RENEGADE ACADEMIA: THE Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Director's cut of unpublished feature for Lingua Franca, 1999; short remix appeared in Springerin, 2000) Available here: Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report #2008‐3, Future o Humanity Institute, Oxford University Available here:‐3.pdf Sheer, Edward (2002) ‘Stelarc’s E-Motions’ in eds. Zylinska, Joanna The Cyborg Experiments: the extensions of the body in the media age, Turkle, Sherry (1984) The second self: computers and the human spirit (USA: Simon and Schuster) Zylinska, Joanna (2002) The Cyborg Experiments: the extensions of the body in the media age (London: Continuum)


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

Notes                                                                                                               1 Tim Etchells (1999). ‘On Documentation and Performance’ in Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment, 71

2 ‘Incurably Curious’ is the slogan of the Wellcome Trust in London, one of the largest funding bodies for art/ science collaboration.

3 Alternatively I attempt to share these ideas and concepts through an academic lecture given physically at the University of Warwick, Milburn House and Virtually in Teleplace on ‘Coding Consciousness: Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance,’ Wednesday 17th November 2010 at 10.45 am PST (1.45pm EST, 6.45pm UK, 7.45pm CET). Available at: Direct Video Link:

4 Andy Miah is the Chair of Ethics in Emerging Technologies in the Faculty of Business and Creative Industries at the University of West Scotland. Quote from the header of

5 Idea adapted from ‘Post-Structuralism As Subculture: Barbara Epstein probes the roots of postmodernism's attraction -- and its limitations.’ Available here:

6 Sheer, Edward (2002) ‘Stelarc’s E-Motions’ in eds. Zylinska, Joanna The Cyborg Experiments: the extensions of the body in the media age, 85

7 Luke Robert Mason on ‘Coding Consciousness: Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance,’ Wednesday 17th November 2010 at 10.45 am PST (1.45pm EST, 6.45pm UK, 7.45pm CET), 00mins: 56sec Video Link:




Doyle, Richard (2003), Wetwares: Experiments in Postvital Living, 3

10 Terry Flaxon is a Senior Research Fellow & AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellow in the department of Drama: Theatre, Film, and Television at the University of Bristol. The term ‘velocitation’ was used in his paper “Developing aesthetics of digital technology and its effects on transmedial disciplines” at the World University Network Symposium, Technologies of Transmediality, held by the University of Bristol between Thursday 6th and Saturday 8th January 2011.

11 Gabriel Gonzalez, 2006, 2.55pm - 12 See Natasha Vita More’s Interview on H+ art in which she contextualizes the H+ movement in the context of other understanding of art. Available here:

13 The official soundtrack for ESS [re]Code was provided by XYKOGEN. The word "xykogen" is a neologism, which means influencing the mind. The band's philosophy is described at Website Available here:

14 Based on Baudrillard’s idea of Hyper-Realities explored in, Baudrillard, Jean. (1985) Glaser, Sheila Faria (trans) (1995) Simulacres et Simulation (USA: University of Michigan Press)


Voiceover in ESS [re]Code


Burroughs, William S. (1993), “Immortality,” in The Adding Machine,132


Doyle (2003), 131

18 Simon Casson cited in Johnson, Dominic (2007) ‘It Only Hurts Because It’s True: Recent Live Art and Performance in the UK’, Western European Stages, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 9-14.

19 Luke Robert Mason’s dissertation proposal for ‘Coding Consciousness: Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance’ Available here:

Extreme Simulation Scenario – An idea posed by Dr. Amon Twyman, Research Fellow at UCL, during his talk on, ‘Extreme Simulation Scenarios: Thinking about the promise, risk, and plausibility of AI and VRs’ 2pm-4pm, Saturday 11th July 2009, London. 20

21 Donald, Merlin (1991), Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press), 356.


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code: An Exploration of Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance

                                                                                                              22 Concept coined by Sherry Turke in Turkle, Sherry (1984) The second self: computers and the human spirit (Simon and Schuster)

23 During my lecture on 17th November 2010, I claim that ever since we began to write diaries and notes, using the technology of pen and paper, we have been augmenting the storage capacity of our brain. Equally through the ability of speech we have shared thoughts and ideas, which now exist in other people’s minds.

24 Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report #2008‐3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University Available here:‐3.pdf


Sheer (2002) 85


Sheer (2002), 85

27 Clarke, Julie (2002) ‘Orland and Stelarc: Human/ Not Human’ in eds. Zylinska, Joanna The Cyborg Experiments: the extensions of the body in the media age, 34

28 McLuhan, Marshall (1964) ‘The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis’ in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 41

29 Calleja, Gordon (2007) ‘Revising Immersion: A Conceptual Model for the Analysis’ in Digital Game Involvement in Situated Play, Proceedings of DiGRA 2007 Conference, 85

The shot of tequila was a device inspired by Richard Doyle’s line “Your mouth reeks slightly of tequila, a sensation of taste quickly over-taken by the agony of postsurgical trauma.” Doyle (2003), 1. I still do not know, and hope I will never find out, what post surgical trauma tastes like. Although the imagery used in this introduction stayed with me throughout my creative process. It was only fitting to use this as tool through which to estrange the body from another sense, taste. 30


Albert Einstein, US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)


Quote taken from the title of an article by David Reisman (1998) ‘Glamorize Your Messes’ in Texte zur Kunst


Lopategui, Jose Fernandez (2010) Digital Dystopia (United States: LuLu Press),73


Thomas, William I. (1929) Thomas, Dorothy: The Child in America (Alfred Knopf, 2nd ed.), 572


Eliot, TS (1936) From ‘Burnt Norton’ in Four Quartets


Doyle (2003), 137


Bataille, Georges. Hurley, Robert (trans.) (2001). The Impossible (City Lights Publishers), 19

38 Bostrom, Nick (2003) Transhumanist FAQ (World Transhumanist Association) Available here:


Such as Natasha Vita More’s Primo-Post Human

40 Definition by Luke Robert Mason presented during “Coding Consciousness: Transhuman Aesthetics in Performance” WIP Lecture on Wednesday 17th November 2010 at 10.45 am PST (1.45pm EST, 6.45pm UK, 7.45pm CET).

41 An aim of the University of Warwick’s Cybernetic Cultures Research Unit described by Simon Reynolds in his article RENEGADE ACADEMIA: THE Cybernetic Culture Research Unit - Director's cut of unpublished feature for Lingua Franca, 1999; short remix appeared in Springerin, 2000 Available here:


Doyle (2003), 129

43 Foucault, Michael (1988) Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press), 18


Doyle (2003), 129


Etchells (1999), 71


From Coding Consciousness to ESS [re]Code  

Four letters in extended sequence yield the blueprint of the human body. With another 22 or more letters the human mind is beginning to be i...