Karin Harrasser

Karin Harrasser: Prosthetics and Future Fetishism [Matthew Barney]

The good news with fetishism: We don't have to reproduce ourselves!


If we think of sexuality in the sense Michel Foucault ... has taught us to think about it: sexuality as the most culturally regulated, heaviest scientifically studied realm of human behaviour that is 'naturalized' in the service of biopolitics; if we think of sexuality in this framework, it is obvious that technologically enhanced sex is nothing but one variety in the whole range of 'artificial' modes of having sex.


Read with Foucault, it is more than obvious that so called 'fetishist practices' recorded by Krafft-Ebing and Freud were no expressions of an individual pathology but precise answers to the restrictive construction of heteronormative, genital sex as the only accepted mode in the late 19th century and a response to the increasing amount of commodities that leaked into peoples lives. We can then consider fetishist practices in general to be a rather emancipatory plea for the idea that all sex is artificial and partial; as an argument for the generative potential of perverse sex and for an understanding of sexual encounters as a meeting place for humans and non-humans. Fetishism places sexuality on the intersection of human rootedness in a biological 'wetwear' (the desire to be touched, not to be alone) and the cultural: individual and collective potential to project ourselves into the future; it releases our inventiveness and our eminent non-natural side: technologies not only moderate or express our relationship to each other, but they have also profoundly altered our relationships. We can therefore think of fetishes as magical tools that can reshape our experiences. Plus the good news with fetishism is still: we don't have to reproduce ourselves! We are free to make use of our bodies and our sexuality for pure pleasure, we don't even have to use it on other humans, and we can reproduce things that don't resemble humans at all.



... Prostheses are in all of Barney's work and are used extensively on a figurative level, being featured by certain semi-fictional characters Matthew Barney stages. For example the legendary American Football-player Jim Otto who, after numerous surgeries, ended up with two artificial knees and finally a left leg amputation in 2007. But medical-technical materials are also used as working material. Matthew Barney uses prosthetic plastics, as as well as Teflon and stainless steel, for prosthetic joints in his sculptural work. Furthermore the aesthetic principles of 'restriction' and 'supplement' are central to his form finding process. His performances that take place under the label 'drawing restraint' for instance feature a restricted semantic vocabulary that is borrowed from the field of sports (fitness, climbing, rugby), sexual perversion and mythology. Bondage scenes (inspired by free climbing and the 19th century escapologist Harry Houdini) blend with performances of exaggerated masculinity and move on to cross-dressing scenes. Change of gender is only one of the many metamorphoses that take place constantly: characters move from human to animal to mythological figure and back again. ...

What Barney does here twists the sexologist's verdict of the fetishist being 'unproductive' for the societal body (because he is not engaged in proper reproduction) into a form-finding program of artistic production: by assembling heterogenious and highly idiosyncratic objects - mythological, technological, biological and biographical - the artwork is being deliberately developed without ever gaining a definitive form.  ...

Der gesamte Text (als pdf, 11 Seiten, 6.9 MB) kann hier heruntergeladen werden.

Er ist ursprünglich erschienen in:
Johannes Grenzfurthner, Günther Friesinger, Daniel Fabry, Thomas Ballhausen (Hg.): monochrom's Arse Elektronik Anthology: 'Do Androids Sleep with Electronic Sheep? Critical Perspectives on Sexuality and Pornography in Science and Social Fiction', San Francisco (ReSearch) 2009.

Karin Harrasser ist wissenschaftliche Leiterin des Kongresses und präsentiert zusammen mit Aino Korvensyrjä das Museum der untoten Arbeit.