Cyborg Art: An Explorative and Critical Inquiry into Corporeal Human-Technology Convergence
Borst, E. M. (2009). Cyborg Art: An Explorative and Critical Inquiry into Corporeal Human-Technology Convergence (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/3976
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/3976
This thesis introduces and examines the undervalued concept of corporeal human-technology interface art, or 'cyborg art', which describes literal, figural and metaphorical representations of increasing body and technology integration. The transforming (post)human being is therefore the focus; who we are today, and who or what we may become as humanity increasingly interfaces with technology. Theoretical analysis of cyborg imagery centres on the science fiction domain, in particular film and television, as opposed to art. Yet a profusion of cyborg art and art practices abound within contemporary society; each differing art form (for example, performance, interactive, digital, sculpture or painting), offering possible 'symbolic function' and 'critical potential' concerning increasing cyborgisation. I therefore argue in this thesis that cyborg art has social value, and reveal throughout the way this artistic focus depicts key ontological and sociological themes of body-technology merger. Seventy-two artworks are examined in total, each demonstrating relevant concerns and aspirations regarding present and envisioned impacts of technoscience. The cyborg-inspired artworks included in this study are primarily situated within four fundamental dimensions of humanity: birth, death, gender and ethnicity; and within three main spheres of corporeal-technological developments: prosthetics, telematics and genetics. Key concepts and themes explored within these realms include ectogenesis, post-genderism, necrotic and ethno-cyborgs, augmentation and reconstruction, tele-erotics and tele-puppets, and transgenics. In addition, three new cyborgian concepts are introduced: the udopian cyborg, which is an aesthetic representing technology's paradoxical dimension - technology as evoking fear and yearning, and having the potential to benefit and harm humanity; the permeative gaze of technoscience, which is a new technologised gaze focusing on how human skin no longer serves as a boundary and barrier to the inner corporeal realm; and lastly, triadic convergence, which denotes the way artists are increasingly creating entities which are a melding of animal, technological and human components. Multimethod research serves as the methodological base for this thesis, as both qualitative and quantitative methods are incorporated into the research design. Hermeneutics is adopted as the analytical/interpretive perspective and approach. The empirical research includes semi-structured in-depth interviews, qualitative (artists') email questionnaires, and structured quantitative questionnaires. Triangulation is employed in order to obtain varied responses to, and perspectives on, technology and the technological epoch, art and cyborg art, and the cyborg. A theory of cyborg art is constructed by interweaving the collated findings with interview participants' responses to a selection of cyborg artworks, and theorists' perspectives on the aforementioned concepts, derived from visual culture, cyborg theory, and critical postmodern theory. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to present the underlying theoretical breadth and creative depth of cyborg art, and to demonstrate that cyborg art can act as a catalyst for increasing societal awareness of, and interest in, corporeal human-technology merger. I analyse the critical relevance of this under-examined artistic focus, and address why cyborg art should be recognised as a new postmodern art genre, and complementary to theoretical discussions of cyborgisation. I argue overall that cyborg art is a valid and critical sphere of inquiry into the increasing integration which exists between humanity and technology.
The University of Waikato
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