In the era of cognitive capitalism, our relationship with technology defines connections between body, mind and reality. By cognitive capitalism I mean that capitalism is not anymore about value of objects, but about creating beings that relate their minds and bodies in a capitalist way. Social media is turning us into beings who navigate their minds and reality turning everything into things that can be uploaded to the internet. We are living and thinking in this way. Our cognitive processes are being molded in that way.
Who is represented in the design of the new body-technology integrations? Do robots have an ethnicity? What is the place of non-Western cosmologies in the development of new technologies? What are the mythologies that inform those integrations? (I use mythology in an anthropological way. Mythologies are the big ideas that guide the practices of culture. All cultures have mythologies. For example, capitalist mythologies are related to success and historical evolution).
“Myth and Prosthesis I: Do Robots have an ethnicity?” is a sonic sculpture that improvises with a Latin American logic of rhythm. It is an assemblage of personal Western and non-Western cultural referents that are at the same time foreign and native to me.
In this project I wanted to show that there is a mythology behind Western technology: A mythology that establishes that everything can be measured and quantified using mathematics. For example, music software is generally based on the Euclidean plane: as in Western music notation, in music software there is a grid in which time flows from left to right and there is only one metronome/clock that works as a conductor. On the other hand, the brain of my robotic sculpture is a software with 6 independent clocks and grids that are constantly moving. It is as if instead of there being a single conductor, there are 6 “percussionists” interacting simultaneously, as in Latin American rhythmic improvisation; this is how this sculpture produces polyrhythms through an algorithm inspired by the Latin American logic of rhythm.
I also wanted to show that just as Western technology has its own mythology, there are technologies that come from non-Western mythologies. The percussive robot beats batá drums which are used in Yoruba trance rituals. In these rituals, the rhythms of the drums are a technology that facilitates a trance state that modifies the brain and the body. It’s a musical psychiatry. In trance rituals the dancing body is a producer of knowledge, unlike the project of modernity where technology and bodily practices are opposed. I am interested in body-technology integrations beyond the concepts raised by the Western laboratory.
The sculpture also carries garments that my father and grandfather used in their Rosicrucian and Masonic rituals. Both Freemansons and Rosicrucians wanted to erode the division between spirituality and technology. I also added objects and symbols of a mythology invented by myself.
As a Latin American artist, I am at the cross roads of modernity and tradition. Western technologies, Santeria, Freemansonry and Rosicrucianism are all foreign and close to me. This sculpture brings together all of this referents as an essay or altar dedicated to a utopian future, where all of these traditions can dialogue in a more egalitarian way.
Absolute power creates technology
which creates prostheses
which create reality.
Personal mythology creates technology
which creates prostheses
which create realities
outside the absolute power.
Harvestworks New Works Commission & Residency 2018.
Exhibitions and performances
Center for Performance Research, New York 12/10/17
To see a video of the performance in its entirety click here