Where do we stand now?
‘Our precarity is to a large extent dependent upon the organization of economic and social relationships, the presence or absence of sustaining infrastructures and social and political institutions. In this sense, precarity is indissociable from that dimension of politics that addresses the organization and protection of bodily needs. Precarity exposes our sociality, the fragile and necessary dimensions of our interdependency’. Butler (round table reading, page 170).
We are so reliant on systems that provide for our bodies, systems that capitalise on us ever increasingly needing more provisions. Technology is a prime example of this: if we are to abide by Moore’s law, hard wear will half in size every two years. With such exponential growth in technology new and newer versions are on the market mere months after you have bought a new camera, or ipad, or car.
This market capitalises on inducing anxiety, and bodily anxiety is often targeted by marketing campaigns. ‘Therapeutic’ bodily adjustments in Brazil are an example of the market profiting from our body anxieties, and as are muting fashion trends like ‘Normcore’. In attempting to stifle our individualities for social mobility, we are making choices about our bodies that have political importance. In choosing these things we are recognising that our bodily appearance matters. Searching for social mobility in 2016 can therefore be said to amount to a self-conscious shedding of individualities, aiming for the perfected marketable vitruvian vision.
But what is perfect or vitruvian is a conceptual ideal, and is literally unobtainable as we all differ so greatly. Capitalism idealises these unobtainable ideals, the Pirouette, the vitruvian, the Shard. The market creates a disconnect between what our bodies are naturally like and how we conceive our bodies should look like.
On the edge of the actual, is the virtual: uncanny in its dreamlike familiarity. Our bodies are there, but those virtual bodies aren’t the ones that think. The thinking self is, for now, grounded in the actual. The thinking self is aware that it it detached from the virtual body. And we are aware that we are the choreographer of our virtual bodies.
What, for me, is more uncanny, is what is choreographing our actual bodies. Because it’s definitely plausible to say the virtual choreographs us. If Lepecki identifies cigarettes, pens etc as choreographing our gestures, technology / smart phones (especially) do so even more dramatically. These movements are for the body rather than from the body. And that’s uncanny, as it implies these objects (or for Lepecki – Apparatus’s, or Marx – Commodities) have a power over our bodies. At this stage there isn’t really a clear binary between the virtual and the actual, life revolves around commodities, and the commodities we rely on are ever gaining their own agency. Sorry for asking, but who controls these commodities, designs them and profits from our bodies?
Precarity Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Bojana Cvejić, Isabell Lorey, Jasbir Puar, and Ana Vujanović, TDR. 56.4 (Winter 2012), 163-177
Artwork Jenny Saville: Branded, 1992.