Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican.
Highlight - the Ruby Rhod catsuit up close!
Human/machine/animal: Blade Runner and boundary-crossing by professorfangirl
(for the anon who asked about my take on the androids in Blade Runner)
In discussing film genres, Annette Kuhn argues that “Perhaps more interesting, and probably more important, than what a film genre is, is the question of what, in cultural terms, it does, its ‘cultural instrumentality’.” I think this is equally true with cinematic cyborgs. The interesting thing about them is not a definition of their technical specifications, but an analysis of their cultural functions. Not whether, say, the Terminator is “more” of a cyborg than the False Maria in Metropolis, but whether they perform similar cultural functions. Donna Haraway’s analysis in “A Cyborg Manifesto” is invaluable here. Haraway maintains that cyborgs are important thematic figures for the ways they highlight three blurred boundaries in contemporary life: between humans and technology, between the real and the virtual, and between humans and other animals. Replicants in Blade Runner trouble and disrupt all three of these boundaries.
They trouble these boundaries so much that, as Scott Bukatman observes, “the novel and the film are filled with tests: there are tests to determine who’s human, who’s fit to reproduce, who’s fit to emigrate. The obsession with boundaries, definitions and standards indicates that these definitions are in crisis.” In both the film and the novel, the boundary between human and replicant is determined by an empathy test, the Voight-Kampff scale.
What else can blur these boundaries and attempt to bridge these gaps? Empathy. Ironically the very thing in the film that makes one human—empathy—opens humans up to identifying across these boundaries. To become “more human than human” is to embrace what Haraway calls “lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoint.” ‘This is not so simple as to say that in the film what makes one human and what makes one a cyborg are the same thing, but that they meet in a similar shared space. To remain human, we must be more, must be open to more, than what we have been.
(Sources: Bukatman, Scott. Blade Runner. London, BFI: 1997. Kuhn, Annette. Alien Zone. London, Verso, 1990. Haraway’s essay is widely available on the web.)
William Blake. The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth. 1805.
Vittore Carpaccio - The Daughter of of Emperor Gordian is Exorcised by St. Triphun. 1507
Gerrit Dou (Leiden, 1613 - 1675); The Physician, 1653; oil on panel, 37 x 49.3 cm; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna