Melentie Pandilovski ::: Biography

ON THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS,
TECHNOLOGY, AND GENETIC CULTURE

With the turn of the centuries comes a shift in the body of ideas and praxis connected to developments in philosophy, science, technology and art. The intensely debated themes of today are biotechnology, genetic research, experiments with nano-technology, artificial intelligence, and research of the mind itself. These issues are in today's world intensely interlinked but they also connect to the issue of immense importance, their common denominator, the issue of consciousness. It is becoming obvious that the appearance of these fundamental changes, taking place in our time, can also be viewed as a change in consciousness.
What exactly is this change of consciousness? Is it simply a change in the logical process(es)?
One could begin answering this question where the change in consciousness causes the replacement of one culture with another. In the case of the end of the 20th century it was becoming obvious that the "linear - text type culture" was pushed into the background by the "interactive - hybrid culture of the technologically modulated image/ sound, telecommunications and hypertext." Additionally, the developments in life sciences and artificial life, have created a situation that truly calls for a re-investigation of the phenomenon of consciousness.
However, in respect to what the advent of this 21st century is bringing to us I will have to turn to much earlier researches (of about one century ago), and the concept of phenomenology, which has been referred to by its founder Edmund Husserl as the "science of consciousness."

Angle 1. Husserl and Phenomenology
Let us look back to the beginning of the 20th century when Edmund Husserl declared phenomenology to be the study of the structures of consciousness that enable it to refer to objects outside itself. In fact he believed that the subject matter of phenomenology is consciousness and that only the essences of specific structures of consciousness are the proper object of phenomenology. Phenomenological reduction is the study of substance of the mind, which does not assume that something exists, a state that allows pointing the mind en route toward real, but also absent, or imaginary objects.
Phenomenology strongly influenced 20th-century thought. It has penetrated sociology, psychology, psychiatry, and the arts, becoming perhaps the most valid school of contemporary philosophy. This creates for us a possibility to link the structures of consciousness through our personal experiences in very wide fields of human activities.
What Husserl discovered when he contemplated the content of his mind were acts as remembering, desiring, and perceiving and the abstract content of these acts, which Husserl called meanings. These meanings, he claimed, enabled an act to be directed toward an object under a certain aspect; and such directedness, called intentionality, he held to be the essence of consciousness.

This on-line version of the book "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture" is not full. The unabridged edition can be purchased in printed form as anthology. Requests should be sent to: bulatov@ncca.koenig.ru (full information) or in written form: 236000, Russia, Kaliningrad, 18, Marx str., The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”. Phone requests: Kaliningrad +7(0112)216251, Saint-Petersburg +7(812)3885881, Moscow +7(095)2867666. On-line bookshop (in Russian): http://www.yantskaz.ru. Full reference to this book: "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture". Edited and curated by Dmitry Bulatov. The National Centre for Contemporary art (Kaliningrad branch, Russia), The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”: Kaliningrad, 2004. ISBN 5-7406-0853-7

However what Husserl does not tell us is that if we try to observe the process of consciousness we will find that when one expands the consciousness he/she primarily develops knowledge of the phenomenal rather than of his self.
How do we deal with the subjective view then? Where can we find the self?
Is the self to be found outside of the phenomenal, on the obvious material and conceptual levels?
Even though the self in its transcendental condition is amorphous and unstructured it equates with the phenomenal world of forms, which are by definition limited or restricted. Especially if we consider that the self is to be found beyond the obvious material, and conceptual worlds.
Then how is the consciousness connected to the phenomenal?
In our understanding of the consciousness we may start from its links. What is the self to be linked with? Should it be linked to the concept of transcendence or with the basic material world creation?
One hint that may be of assistance is that as one gradually expands his or her consciousness, she/he becomes aware of the phenomenal world. Does this still confront the consciousness with the material world? It would seem so. Undoubtly the self acquires consciousness.
Could it be that the evolution of consciousness necessarily demands the duality of the subject and the object?
In order to understand the driving current between the center of consciousness and the world of forms that represent the human reality we need to explore the field of identification. For example, we identify ourselves as human with the human form of the body. The identification with the forms is an obstacle to the emancipation of consciousness, for our experience with the phenomenal world is conditioned by our own limitations. Through it we experience the conflict between the need for the emancipation of consciousness and the limitations of consciousness.




Ken Feingold. Interior, 1997. Interactive installation.

Angle 2. Heidegger and Technologization
Technology may be also regarded as thirst for overcoming of these limitations and a tool which can assist us in achieving a higher form of understanding of the phenomenal world and its transcending.
Martin Heidegger was one other phenomenologist who claimed that phenomenology should reveal the hidden in the common experience. Heidegger writes in The Question Concerning Technology on the essence of technology suggesting that technology is the supreme danger to man preventing us from achieving proper understanding of our own being.
"Technology is not equivalent to the essence of technology. When we are seeking the essence of "tree," we have to become aware that "That which pervades every tree, as tree, is not itself a tree that can be encountered among all the other trees."
Likewise, the essence of technology is by no means anything technological. Thus we shall never experience our relationship to the essence of technology so long as we merely conceive and push forward the technological, put up with it, or evade it.

This on-line version of the book "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture" is not full. The unabridged edition can be purchased in printed form as anthology. Requests should be sent to: bulatov@ncca.koenig.ru (full information) or in written form: 236000, Russia, Kaliningrad, 18, Marx str., The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”. Phone requests: Kaliningrad +7(0112)216251, Saint-Petersburg +7(812)3885881, Moscow +7(095)2867666. On-line bookshop (in Russian): http://www.yantskaz.ru. Full reference to this book: "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture". Edited and curated by Dmitry Bulatov. The National Centre for Contemporary art (Kaliningrad branch, Russia), The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”: Kaliningrad, 2004. ISBN 5-7406-0853-7

Let us begin exploring this issue by asking ourselves the question of who is it that is making these works of art?
Who is that is creating technology? (The words of art and technology derive from the ancient "techne.")
It is, at least on this planet, Homo Sapiens, the only technology-creating being. The creation of technology is undoubtedly connected to the evolution of the human kind. The Fire, The Language, The Spinning Wheel, The Letters, The Steam Engine, The Electrical Power, The Computer.
Technology is the key to evolution.
Technology contains the code of inevitability deeply rooted in it self.
Heidegger's Luddite-like statement should not be regarded as an opposition of technology. It should be more understood in the sense of reminder that technology is power.

Angle 3. Vilem Flusser: The technical image and memory
Technology has fundamentally changed the structure and the core of the communication. The letter-type culture that had articulated the thoughts and given them a direction, introducing the time segments, has found itself on the margins of culture. The "image" is once again placed on the throne, while this time, of course, it is technologically modulated. According to Flusser's idea the logic of the alphabet, which directed the thinking i.e. linear numerical form or the historical consciousness for a long period of time, is already overcome by the mathematical logic of the technical image. This creates as a result a fundamental change in the way of thinking, which indirectly links to the processes of the expansion of consciousness.
Two elements, which appear to come out of our understanding of the treated topic, are "The Memory" and "The Mathematical Logic" of the technical image. Vilem Flusser, who has explored deeply these phenomena, describes the concept of memory as one of the fundamentals of civilization, as it implies the specificity of the human being. "Unlike other creatures, we do not only pass on inherited but also acquired information, we do not only have a genetic but also a cultural memory. This faculty of storing acquired information and of making it available (retrievable) to others is almost uncanny, as it is contrary to our natural condition. In accordance with the second law of thermodynamics all information within a closed system (as for instance human society) must decay in time and yet the sum total of all cultural information available to us is continuously increasing. According to the principles of biology, acquired information cannot be passed on, and yet each human generation inherits a sum of cultural information exceeding that of its parents. Putting it differently: thanks to the cultural memory we are anti-natural beings."
Electronic memories actually are simulations of the memory function of the brain. This function is transferred from within the skull to the outside. We thus acquire a critical distance to memory function: we can observe it from the outside, we can interfere, and we can control it. Owing to this distance we can differentiate more clearly between the function of the memory as such (between software) and its aid (hardware). Due to our use of the computer, we recognize that the memory function is a mode and not a thing and in this way we avoid the former re-ification of memory function and thereby open a critical discourse to traditional concepts like soul, mind, immortality. We are greatly assisted in this from the motion received by it and the perception of the splitting of particular functions of memory such as the gathering of data, accumulation, processing and transmission. In that way, a critical distance is shown from one of the most fundamental concepts of our society. Undoubtedly, there are epistemological implications of the use of electronic memories, of the very possibility for a more disciplined storage, recombination, and easy retrieval of what has been stored. The potential for greater creativity appears, as we are relieved from the need to store information in the human brain. Interestingly enough, Flusser stresses that exactly this capacity for storing information has resulted in "discovery" of concepts such as soul, mind or Self, and accordingly the concept of "immortality."


Peter Weibel. The Panoptic Society or Immortally in Love with Death. Interactive project, 2001.

Angle 4. Roy Ascott: the Technology of Transcendence
In the text Seeing Double: Art and the Technology of Transcendence Roy Ascott points out to the phenomena of double consciousness. Namely in this text Roy Ascott tells us that he has entered the noted state of double consciousness that appears after the ingestion of the plant ayahuasca. He has then become aware of his own familiar sense of the self, and of a totally separate state of being. Not only that but he could move more or less freely between these two states. In addition he says "Similarly with my body: I was at one and the same time conscious of inhabiting two bodies, the familiar phenomenology of my own body sheathed as it were in a second body which was made of a mass of multicoloured particles, a million molecular points of light. My visual field, my double gaze, alternated at choice, between the coherent space of everyday reality and a fractal universe comprising a thousand repetitions of the same image, or else forming a tunnel in space through which I could voluntarily pass with urgent acceleration. I could at any point stop and review these states, moving in and out of them more or less at will."

This on-line version of the book "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture" is not full. The unabridged edition can be purchased in printed form as anthology. Requests should be sent to: bulatov@ncca.koenig.ru (full information) or in written form: 236000, Russia, Kaliningrad, 18, Marx str., The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”. Phone requests: Kaliningrad +7(0112)216251, Saint-Petersburg +7(812)3885881, Moscow +7(095)2867666. On-line bookshop (in Russian): http://www.yantskaz.ru. Full reference to this book: "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture". Edited and curated by Dmitry Bulatov. The National Centre for Contemporary art (Kaliningrad branch, Russia), The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”: Kaliningrad, 2004. ISBN 5-7406-0853-7

The products of these experiences can be considered as deep mystical experiences, or synesthetic experiences, specific autistic-like realities, or what is called virtual reality; nevertheless, they have a common code based on a permanent transformation of the being of which we become witnesses through the use of simultaneous double-sided motion.
Additionally, the experience of Roy Ascott testifies in this somewhat mature phase of global networking even the most distant and exotic cultures affect the change of the character and the contents of our domicile culture. The possibility of exploiting heterogeneous sources becomes more realistic than the exploiting of our own inert culture.





Top: Heather Sheehan. Egg, 1999. Bioinstallation, detail. Bottom: Heather Sheehan. Single opening, 1999. Bioinstallation, detail.

Value Systems
The inevitable pendulum-like motion from prehistoric thinking i.e. thinking in images, towards marking the end of it (with the invention of the alphabet), is now set again in opposite direction allowing the technological image to shape consciousness. The advances in the field of genetics and biotechnology even more speed up the process.
Due to this convergence of knowledge and technologies it should be expected that the general value systems would be thoroughly altered (as every previous change of direction did). This implies that anyone (artist or theorist) who tries to reflect on the consequences of this great change cannot neglect the technology-image relation.
A key moment for this change is that it allows us to use it as prosthesis and through mediation it enables an approach to the processes of the "direct abstraction" or, in other words, to the processes that characterize the phenomena of the poly-dimensional experience of the world practiced through different shamanic rituals on all geographic longitudes. This phenomenon rests on the very essence of reasoning of the human being, but through of the different approaches it enables a deeper entering into the spheres of consciousness.

The Aesthetics

The decoding of the language of this change is crucial for the recognizing of the new aesthetics. This is due to the modified totality of the examined subject, as well as to the extremely fast development of technology, which demands that artists follow it.
Regarding these newly forming characteristics as aesthetic preconditions of art in the tech-image era one must always bear in mind that technologically-enabled-integration of different disciplines into an artistic whole plays an important role in the newly forming aesthetics of layering of different mediums which exhibits always in a different pattern, i.e. is different to every viewer.
It is a negation of traditional aesthetics that could evolve in its Aufhebung.

Social Control
Given the fact that all these technologies have their origin in the technologically dependent military complex they will always raise questions of accessibility and social control. For many theorists this is very important. Some even stress the need for studying these techniques at art schools so the artist can participate in the process of humanization of technology. These issues of the relation man-technology-art are actually based on the general connecting of the most heterogeneous areas of human activities. The structure of these works is immanently related to science, philosophy and religion, and art being placed as a fluid floating between them. All these aspects and possibilities for their separate decoding signify the placement and action from a position of an authentic interactive cohabitus.
Finally, I would conclude that the new century calls for a New Phenomenology for it may in the future prove to be one of the key paradigms that will assist us in the process of restructuring of our cultural consciousness in the direction of establishing an inter subjective world and dynamic intersection between the heterogeneous fields of human activities, such as art and science, philosophy and religion, where one will be in dialogue and function of the other instead of standing opposite to it.

References:
[1]. Pandilovski, M. "Interactivity - Simultaneous Two-sided Motion," in: Interactivity a new Category of the Fine Artistic? (Skopje, SCCA, 1997).




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COLOPHON

CONTENTS:

I. LABORATORY: science and technology

Svetlana Borinskaya. Genomics and Biotechnology: Science at the Beginning of the Third Millennium.

Mikhail Gelfand. Computational Genomics: from the Wet Lab to Computer and Back.

Irina Grigorjan, Vsevolod Makeev. Biochips and Industrial Biology.

Valery Shumakov, Alexander Tonevitsky. Xenotransplantation as a Scientific and Ethic Problem.

Abraham Iojrish. Legal Aspects of Gene Engineering.

Pavel Tishchenko. Genomics: New Science in the New Cultural Situation.
II. FORUM: society and genomic culture

Eugene Thacker. Darwin's Waiting Room.

Critical Art Ensemble. The Promissory Rhetoric of Biotechnology in the Public Sphere.

SubRosa. Sex and Gender in the Biotech Century.

Ricardo Dominguez. Nano-Fest Destiny 3.0: Fragments from the Post-Biotech Era.

Birgit Richard. Clones and Doppelgangers. Multiplications and Reproductions of the Self in Film.

Sven Druehl. Chimaera Phylogeny: From Antiquity to the Present.
III. TOPOLOGY: from biopolitics to bioaesthetics

Boris Groys. Art in the Age of Biopolitics.

Stephen Wilson. Art and Science as Cultural Acts.

Melentie Pandilovski. On the Phenomenology of Consciousness, Technology, and Genetic Culture.

Roy Ascott. Interactive Art: Doorway to the Post-Biological Culture.
IV. INTERACTION CODE: artificial life

Mark Bedau. Artificial Life Illuminates Human Hyper-creativity.

Louis Bec. Artificial Life under Tension.

Alan Dorin. Virtual Animals in Virtual Environments.

Christa Sommerer, Laurent Mignonneau. The Application of Artificial Life to Interactive Computer Installations.
V. MODERN THEATRE: ars genetica

George Gessert. A History of Art Involving DNA.

Kathleen Rogers. The Imagination of Matter.

Brandon Ballengee. The Origins of Artificial Selection.

Marta de Menezes. The Laboratory as an Art Studio.

Adam Zaretsky. Workhorse Zoo Art and Bioethics Quiz.
VI. IMAGE TECHNOLOGY: ars chimaera

Joe Davis. Monsters, Maps, Signals and Codes.

David Kremers. The Delbruck Paradox. Version 3.0.

Eduardo Kac. GFP Bunny.

Dmitry Bulatov. Ars Chimaera.

Valery Podoroga. Rene Descartes and Ars Chimaera.
VII. METABOLA: tissue culture and art

Ionat Zurr. Complicating Notions of Life - Semi-Living Entities.

Oron Catts. Fragments of Designed Life - the Wet Palette of Tissue Engineering.
VIII. P.S.

Dmitry Prigov. Speaking of Unutterable.

Wet art gallery

Biographies

Bibliography

Webliography

Glossary


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