the doll universe

... a conversation, a performance, a book ...

The Doll Universe:

an interview with Robert Cheatham and Chea Prince (also available in perforations 5)

Perforations: Many people have been both baffled and intrigued by the concept of the Doll Universe. Can you talk a bit about the genesis of the concept?
rc: Well, originally I was to involved in a joint project with an architect for a competition sponsored by Art Papers, an Atlanta based art journal. The competiton was entitled The Ante-Millennial Dollhouse. As it turned out, we never entered the competition, but I did write a piece for it. It was then, and in subsequent discussions with Chea that I began to see the fuller implications of what started out as an exercise in the “rhetoric of apocalypse”, you might say. I believe that original oiece of writing is in this issue of Perforations.

cp: When Rob called and said he wanted to do something with a text he’d written on dolls, etc., and that the original project had gone bust–i was immediately interested because it seemed obvious to me that it was a rich topic. I’d already done some assemblages that included mannequins as pointers toward a kind of surrealist/dada fascination with desire and the blurred boundary between the human and the artificial. Dolls are human creations that attempt to negotiate and mediate some fundamental dichotomies of the human world: male/female, nature/culture, impulse/morality and dreaming/wakefulness, etc.

Perf: So it doesn’t really have anything to do with toys, then?

rc: Yes and no. The cultural site for the manifestation of the Doll Universe is in all those arenas where the imaginal component is paramount, where the ludic is valued over the pragmatic, the workaday, etc….

cp: Dolls always display a preference for the pleasure principle over, and even against, the reality principle. They escape the toy domain and suggest a much more problematic and ambiguous erotism.

Perf: Robert, you mentioned the “everyday”…

rc: Actually, it’s not as simple as that since the so-called “everyday” is the only place where all of this occurs or even CAN occur. Where/when else? But having said that is saying almost nothing since people claim the most extraordinary things to happen in the “everyday”. In using that word, people oftentimes feel that it will dispell all the ghosts, genies…and dolls…that surround them. I’m afraid it is a mantra that doesn’t work very well. At any rate, toys do indeed give valuable insights into the Doll Universe. If you want to see the future look at childhood. Extended neoteny is apparently part of the future of the species…

Perf: Especially, it would seem, in periods of very rapid change…

rc: That’s right. It has become almost a commonplace of some futurist thinking that adaptations to increasingly unstable and hence complex environments require the looseness and playfulness that we often associate with childhood…

cp: The only thing I would add is that both childhood and dolls include a certain precociousness and sexuality that is sometimes overlooked, especially if childhood is considered to be synonomous with innocence, and dolls with toys. Extended neoteny is also an extension of the turbulence and loss of innocence usually associated with adolescence, but which in reality occurs earlier and earlier in some populations of children. The irony is that extended neotony actually means a shrinking period of childhood while at the same time adulthood is deferred. The transitions of child-to-adolescent and toy-to-fetish often accompany one another in a commodity dominated culture; for some individuals it’s the same process since they are themselves the toy/fetish. Here the difference between a doll and a human is very unclear. If the “other” is a simple means rather than a complex end in itself how is that person different from a significantly advanced android? That people can be thought of as playthings or even not-really-human is nothing new–it’s slavery–chattel, sexual, wage…

Perf: So that is the Doll Universe?

rc: No, not totally, but it does have to do, very roughly, with the psychological correlates that accompany certain cultural changes. If one was to be more direct about it, which I loathe because it’s so often misleading, the Doll Universe has to do with that strata which Manual DeLanda identified in War In The Age of Intelligent Machines, and which Deleuze and Guartari have written about in Anti-Oedipus and Thousand Plateaus. It is preeminently the realm of technology, taken in the widest sense of that term as the vectored congruence of material manipulation and consciousness. Such a formulation is terribly misleading since it implies a separation of those areas when in fact they are inextricably connected. It’s tempting to say that it is about the collision of human consciousness and machine culture, but in fact it’s not so simple to make distinctions. What is interesting though, contemporaneously, is the extent and the speed at which technological innovation is occurring. So much so that it appears that the human organism is being emptied and refilled by algorithmic processes–in every field of human activity. Of course, Walter Benjamin’s great essay on the evacuation or exhaustion of the human “aura” with the advent of mechanical reproduction is one of the first to deal with the Doll Universe in a contemporary manner. But in one way or another it has always been one of the major concerns of philosophical enquiry. However, the concerns have shifted slightly with the advent of so-called deconstructive studies or post-structuralism.

Perf: How is that any different?

rc: Without going into a long winded tract on it, let’s just say that the balance of concern shifts with those studies from an overwhelming and transparent, really, in that it was taken as the degree zero of reality– concern with “human” reality, the “essence” of being-human. With the advent of phenomenological studies–which was also the advent of a more-or-less global technological/communications infrastructure–what it meant to be “human” was bracketed. “Being human” became an opaque affair and, through the aegis of modern education and communication, not just for the philosophers, priests, or shamans, but for everyone. For the first time “humans” became visible. And when humans became visible so did the non-, un-, and in-humans become visible again. Boundary conditions become as important, if not more important, than what they bound. One might be tempted to say, at the risk of simplfying too greatly of course, that liminal sets is what post-modernism is all about. At any rate, It’s a great part of what the Doll Universe is about since the most powerful boundary appears to be the one between animate and inanimate, living and dead, conscious and unconscious, and so forth. Technology does seem to be developing (always,already + n?) certain chiasmatic qualities here. At the moment there are only simulacra of life and thought processes; but at what point does the complexity of the map become such that it is a territory in and of itself?
We can note also that boundary conditions or liminal sets do not have numerical values. That is, while a boundary condition requires a minimum of two, that does not make it a binary set. The situation becomes more confusing as states n+2 increase since the inside of one boundary might be the outside of another, etc. It is with the proliferation of ostensible boundary conditions that a condition of perforation sets in, sort of like a hyper-dimensional cluster of imterpenetrating soap bubbles. In Deleuze and Guattari’s term, more “lines of flight” begin to appear just as a (virtual) function of these intersecting boundaries; and of course the difficulties of policing all of these circumstances becomes enormous, if not impossible, since law, ethics, governance, is also being pierced, dissected, deconstructed, etc. at the very same time. The news is filled almost daily with these impacts and intersections. From one view it looks like decay, from another an overload of possibilities. The way a lot of ordinary folk would put it is that “things are out of control”; it’s more like “THINGS are IN control” in terms of the machine world around them.

cp: And, exactly there–at the boundary–in the in-between–is the doll universe. It’s nowhere and everywhere. In fuzzy logic it’s what’s referred to as a both/and situation. Both interior and exterior. Both coincidental with and separate from the many “human” worlds we inhabit. Another way of thinking about it is as a conjunction: the conjunction of dream and waking reality, the conjunction of imagination and imminence, of the rational and the irrational. It exists both within and beyond the limits of human knowledge. Dolls–“the doll universe”–includes the experience of one of my favorite spaces, “chora”, that “invisible and formless being which receives all things and in some mysterious way partakes of the intelligible, and is most incomprehensible,” according to Plato–though I wouldn’t suggest thinking of the Doll Universe as precisely the “same” space. We’re interested in doubling, fantasy, substitution, demand <> desire, real/reality, the uncanny. Dolls as receptacles for the “real” (psychic reality) and its subsequent play within reality (the everyday). I like Slavoj Zizek’s description of Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Mirror in Looking Awry. It’s a nice explication of dream/reality. It hinge’s on a cool reversal: dream as a site of an emergence of the real, reality as an illusion founded on repression. A “doll” gives the real a body that often behaves in very uncivilized and “un-human” ways.

Perf: It seems to me that the only un-human most people can see now is the machine.

cp: The un-human as it’s “seen”?… O.K., I think dolls more closely approximate “manifestations” than “representations,” and therein lies their appeal. A doll is a “thing” whose “inside” contains surplus space, or that “place where nothing takes place but the place”… They appear to be manipulatable and totally responsive to even our most outrageous desires, but the naive view doesn’t take into account feedback and the automatism at work within the human psyche.

rc: Exactly. You might even say that the Doll Universe is gaining the upper hand.

Perf: Of course, there have always been features of human life and consciousness that participate in automatism, such as hypnosis, multiple personality, and so on…

rc: And even the diagnosis of shizophrenia around 1900. Certainly these features have been around a long time (well, itUs not exactly clear about schizophrenia) but it is still not clear how much such features have participated co-evolutionarily you might say, in the onset of the Doll Universe; that is, there is a constitutive element of human consciousness itself which is vectored to automatism and the somnambulism of matter, we might say. A linking of the most evanescent, transparent – consciousness – with the most opaque, the most dense and resistant – matter – and an intimate linking at the very core of each. There is the Doll Universe.

Perf: It seems like in some ways you’re talking about one of the most hackneyed features of the modern era: the sorcerers apprentice, Frankenstein,robots…

cp: Frankenstein’s monster might be well be THE symbol of the 19th/20th centuries. All the hopes and fears concerning technology and it’s promise and/or failure are made available in one creature with whom we empathize while simultaneously distancing ourselves and regarding it with stark terror. But, far more interesting than the monster is his longed for Bride. The Bride is both more complex and more disturbing. She, not he, is the quintessential doll. While he is merely a doll of the first order, she is a doll’s doll…a meta-doll…
She’s NOT the object of HUMAN desire, but of doll desire…the petit objet ‘a’ of the doll universe…the interesting question, of course, is not what does the monster want, but–WHAT DOES SHE WANT? She’s the very embodiment of the sexuality of Death–the point of excess that might well bring on a simultaneous orgasm and cardiac arrest.
She’s a wonderful variation of Pandora’s box. Engage her and suddenly you are adrift in the dream worlds of the physical unconscious where repressed desires are reconstructed around, and re-energized by the pleasure princple. This is not the realm of any particular aesthetic, and certainly no particular ideology has much chance of taking root…or…ALL ideologies have an equal chance… Here, passions, ideas and dreams create and recreate each other with an urgency and vigorousness that can leave one breathless…vertigo is a common occurence. Is all this “hackneyed”? I don’t know…?

rc: Well, it is one of the most persistent concerns of humans (and even further back in time with such creatures the Golem, a linguistic monster par excellance)…whether that makes it a cliche or not I don’t know, either. Perhaps a feature of the Doll Universe is that everything becomes a cliche, that is, it appears overused, worn out, faded, through the process of electronic reproduction and circulation, even the first time that it appears; so much so that there hardly appears to BE a first time. Cybernetic Culture becomes a great holding tank of images and memes which act to sustain a certain hydrostatic (economic) pressure. All past, present, and future become collapsed and coterminous in that circuitry. (In that respect it’s interesting to look at the theoretical work, in all areas, examining the idea of “origin”.) Pop culture and music present us with the most see-able of this aspect, with its emphasis on the hydrostatics of style and fashion. Hit songs are such that they seem familiar yet new; it’s almost like you’ve heard them before, even whenyou hear them the first time.

cp: What we have in is a culture that produces what McLuhan referred to as “assembly-line love goddesses”–patterned, machine-stamped uniformity, or conformity. What’s significant in these patterns is what they suggest about the dominant impulses and aspirations of machine culture. These are the collective cultural dreams that are both entry points to the social irrational as well as vanishing points on its horizon–the realm of off-the-scale, out-of-line appetites and desires that complete the picture of what it means to be the human product of machinic processes. The loop here is fascinating: machines are made in the image of humans <–> humans are re-made in the image of machines. McLuhan’s dissection of the mechanical bride into an assemblage of improvable and/or replaceable parts is precisely why cyborgization is, and will increasingly become, a trend in human development.

Perf: You know, the more you talk about this, the more I’m not so sure I like it.

rc: I guess it depends on where you are in relation to the “singularity” we seem to be moving toward/into. Certainly from a humanistic point of view, it’s undoubtedly frightening. All aspects of life now seem to be doubled, with one side folded into the Doll Universe. Even philosophies, ethical systems, identities, etc. have “folded over” onto themselves (that’s part of the “double marking” of deconstruction), and now have a non-human face. It’s no longer our machines which are un-human….humans THEMSELVES appear to be embracing “un-humanness”. What that is remains to be seen; compared to a humanist or theist culture it seems to have more in common with DIS-membering, rather than RE-membering and the nostalgic reflection and axial value orientation which that entails (and in that sense humanist and theist cultures are basically the same, even if they are all in the same PoMo soup). That’s also what the Doll Universe is all about.

cp: A frightening tendency within cyborgization is the collapse of individuality into a “ready for prime-time” body and accompanying persona. A social face as indistinguishable from another as the perfectly engineered bodies of cyborgs. It could be argued that these processes open up opportunities for enhancing “difference” as well as “sameness”, that individuals will be able to create marvellous variations on what it means to be beautiful, and I’m willing to acknowledge a potential for “liberation”… however, I have a very healthy respect for the inherent instability and reversability of phenomena (Derrida’s pharmakon), and an acute awareness of the unwillingness of masses of people to exercize choice and to be imaginative. I think a kind of off-the-rack consumerism is a more likely scenario. It’s strange how the Nazi desire for the perfection of a master race haunts the popular imagination. I suppose as long as your “type” isn’t targeted for extinction it has a certain sexiness…it would definitely be a mistake to think of the Doll Universe as a utopia. It’s more of an a-topia. Subrational impulses to power, violence and conformity are as easily, or perhaps more easily, found on the loose there as love, peace, brother/sister-hood…

rc: We might be tempted to call it the Semiotic Universe ( and hence a discourse, communication universe–remember the Golem?) , in that it participates in the “ossified” universe as Signs which forever demand to be read, and which we take to be, pac Lyotard, at the heart of semiosis: a nihilistic universe and a religious science at that–codes forever demanding to be interpreted from the past and transferred into the future, worlds without end, amen. Except that the Doll Universe pretends, phantasizes, dis-simulates (so of course, it’s “not true”, a hole or gap in reality–that most interesting of places as all artists and lovers know: and what’s the ontological status of a hole, a rip? )….with a completely hollow core which embodies a chiasmatic twisting back, a “moebiating” back and forth, into and out of the human, emptying an infinitesimal amount with each pass, while the osseus, hard tissue of techne grows more developed by the year. Is there anything lost here compared to what is gained? How is such an adjudication even to be made? Oh sure, we can say what we wish, or what we feel but what makes that so? The Doll Universe (statistics, demographics this time but of course it wears a human face, as do all dolls) will have done a survey and in that survey your “feelings” only rank as a percentile and there will be other percentiles probably in contrast to yours. You barely rank. Or you rank only as a particle. Or as a marketing scheme. And of course, as Georges Bataille well knew, we have never left the sacrificial altar. Something or someone (usually both), somewhere is continually being sacrificed for you. It’s unavoidable. You feel bad about it? Then sacrifice something (yourself, something else, someone else) in turn. But the Doll Universe has a big request (well, more of a demand really) of all of us and it is this: it wants the sacrifice of ALL of us–the grand funeral pyre of the twentieth century, the Final Immolation/Sacrifice, the Burning of the Flesh (remember the final scenes of the movie The Terminator, the burning away of the flesh, the revelation of the Doll beneath?) And you work, you work hard, both at producing-things and at not-seeing this sacrifice don’t you? Let me grab this and read a little Bataille: “From the start, the introduction of labor into the world replaced intimacy, the depth of desire and its free outbreaks, with rational progression, where what matters is no longer the truth of the present moment, but, rather, the subsequent results of operations. The first labor established the world of things….Once the world of things was posited, man himself became one of the things of the world…It is this degradation that man has always tried to escape.” ( from The Accursed Share. ed.) How ironic, then, that the escape is into the Doll Universe: the more intensive the labor, the more we can conceptualize the “problem,” the more abject becomes “life”, and the more appealing the Doll Universe becomes, a vast illimitable plane of “light” as a schizophrenic patient put it in describing her experience. All that is required of us by the Doll Universe is the burning away of this Flesh, this Identity, this Island Earth (and here I’m making simultaneous reference to certain Heideggerian ideas concerning Earth and human identity, and the science fiction movie from the 50s, This Island Earth).

cp: And, what’s leftover? A psychoanalytic node. A site for the production and reproduction of machinic desire. At an imaginary ground zero, through the gaping hole we call reality we enter the Doll Universe. A semiotic fun house where your entire fate may be decided by some idiotic detail. One slip of the tongue, a facial tic…and…your naked. Your frame comes unhinged, and all the meaning in your life drains out. All that’s left is to laugh and say, “I should have never unloosed that (k)not, or God, if I just hadn’t noticed that stain.”

Perf: I have no idea what you’re talking about and I’m not sure you do either. Speaking of “This Island”…could we bring this back to Earth a little….

rc: (interrupted by hysterical laughter)

Perf: No, really, give me a handle on this. Is there art that comes out of this, some “things”, objects….

cp: Well, only if you believe in the aphorism: Dada IN, Dada OUT.

rc: (more laughter) Think of the Doll Universe in terms of Heideggerean Ge-stell, which was a term Heidegger used to characterize technology in its modern manifestation, which he termed “enframing” (or Ge-stell). It is a way of setting up world relations in terms of calculability or systematizability, of formal systems, algorithms, methodologies, and so on. Everything increasingly becomes part of the “standing reserve” of world technical/energetic systems–including humans. In simpler terms, we become fodder for the extrapolation of global technological systems. All of the “things” or “objects” that come out of such a world system only act to increase its level of functioning, storage capacity; even acts of resistance only increase its efficiency.

cp: And…so much for the so-called avant-garde…

rc: Any one episode or group of events may seem catastrophic and so on but this only serves to activate functions in the techno-grid of capital which feed on mishap and act to convert into, if nothing else, capital, that most abstract form of storage energy. Capital itself is, of course, empty. This makes it almost infinitely usable, up to and even beyond, the limits of human culture, life and thought. And beyond those limits waits the Doll Universe. And perhaps as a corollary, the Puppet Universe where objects are still ventriloquized by a few shards of a human “moral” (or perhaps “essentialist”) universe, nostalgia regnant. A dangerous transitional phase perhaps. Although frankly, even the concept “danger” becomes quaint. In fact, if you will hand me that book beside your chair I can read something to you that I was just reading this morning that pretty much gets at the heart of what I was talking about, especially the latter part of the quote. The book is called The Aesthetic State, it’s by Joseph Chytry: “The will to enframe is really the Nietzschean will to power historicized, cresting in the will to will nothingness itself. Opaque and ever present in its moment of ascendancy, it powers forth the concrete products by which the present is distinguished: the post-Renaissance cult of perspectivism, the modern cityscape of homogeneous quilting, total mobilization, and universal donning of the “uni-form,” thought reduced to the clarification of model languages or dissolving into cybernetics these manifestations of a world of grids and lattices, paralyzing in their endless rows of smoothly functioning, perfectly identical entities serving the single purpose of telescoping the capacity of nature to provide steady and meaningless energy flows, betray as their master the state of being that wills power, wills an objectivity that, never knowing beings as beings, can never know its own being as uniquely destined to guard being proper in its moment of elation.”

Perf: I’m interested in the limits you mentioned earlier. I’m having a hard time deciding whether you mean the idea of limits to be positive or negative.

cp: Limits are neither positve nor negative…except situationally…and, there is always the possibility of reversal. Reversability is what brings boundaries into dynamic play. At the boundary is where “both/and” and “neither/nor” logics find application… All boundaries are inherently “fuzzy”…

rc: The two most readily available limit-cases given us to think about are also two of the most fundamental: death and identity (not taxes, as the old saying would have us believe). And I believe you could say that both are co-implicated in the same realm. They form two imbricated boundaries beyond which it seems impossible to reach.

cp: Identity is grounded in an individual’s attitude toward death. How we live is actually how we are choosing to die. How we die is who we were.

Perf: And yet much of human thought and imagination certainly seems to be devoted to at least examining those topics, if not going beyond them. In fact, the whole arena of human religious life is devoted to that “going beyond.”

rc: Yes, of course that’s true…which is only testimony to the aporetic power of death and identity and the asymptotic nature of the attempts to examine their structures. Technology is fascinating, at least in its “deep” aspect which we have been discussing, in that it is non-living but it has the capacity to mimic living substance. In a very restricted sense, it is both living and dead, and is zombie-like in that it can be queried as to its condition. Indeed, technology in general, always already everywhere as they say, raises the question of limits: what is the limit here, can it be exceeded? how can it be exceeded? The question of what it means to exceed limits is, at least at the moment and, as the Chytry quote indicated, beyond its capacities…

perf: Beyond its limits? rc: At least for the moment that sort of reflection is beyond the framing capacities of technology. For that matter, it often seems beyond the capabilities of many humans. Heidegger’s estimation of this reign of technology–that is, whether it is a good thing or a bad thing–was based on the tool-like character of technique and its ability to set aside certain aspects of the world, make it available for humans. At the same time it is ordering human space. Not being a Heidegger scholar I don’t know if he considered the possibility of that realm taking on a certain form of life—and at the same time life takes on certain characteristics of death. And even though Heidegger thought he was destroying certain traditional metaphysical categories—which he assuredly was–he still moved within a certain metaphysical realm which he was not fully able to extirpate, as Derrida has shown in his little book on Heidegger and spirit.

Perf: If we could change direction slightly for a moment…well, I don’t know if it is a changing of direction or not… Chea mentioned cyborgization earlier. There is a lot of talk among techno-oriented groups about cyborgs and cyborgization. Is this the same thing as the Doll Universe?

rc: First we need to recall that cyborg means “cybernetic organism.” Cybernetic is from the Greek and means helmsman, although it has also been construed to mean “dead helmsman”–as in a non-living guidance mechanism, or govenor with a sophisticated feedback circuit which continually advises and adjusts the system according to preset operating parameters. Presumably a cyborg then is a combination of living or organic, carbon-based, material and non-living, electronic (so we might say silicon based) circuitry which consist largely of very sophisticated feedback loops with presets which can be altered by the organic, “organismic” component. On the most basic level, the purpose of these mechanisms would be to augment and extend abilities. Of course, in a very real sense, a human in a car is a cybernetic organism.

Perf: I’m not sure that’s what they mean…

rc: No, you’re right. What is implied by the term “cyborg” is usually a much more intimate intermingling of mechanism and organism, which Donna Harraway has explored at length in her cyborg manifesto. Harraway’s image of the cyborg is a perfect one for a de-essentialized age, where everything can function as a module of a larger complex, a more or less complete interchangeability of parts, as Chea mentioned, based on their utility for the feedback circuit as a whole. In fact, this dis-memberment has come to seem the radical option now, the necessary course that freedom takes. (Here would be where we take another recursion into formal deconstruction, genetic research, viral mechanisms [also on the border between living and non-living], and the mechanisms of immune deficiency syndromes. Without going into that area, I recommend an article by Alexander Guttman in issue #7 of the journal Public, for a very interesting look at the relation between deconstruction and AIDS.) But the important thing to remember about a cybernetic organism is that it represents a more efficient “system of management”, and in that sense it is at the peak, conceptually, of capitalization and commodification of “what-it-means-to-be-human”. It is hard to see how capitalism could go any further after the full cyborgization–whatever that would mean in its particulars–of the human species.

Perf: I hesitate to say this, but that seems to imply that capitalism itself is the most radical system of development–at least of the material environment.

cp: I don’t know if it’s the most radical, but it’s definitely the most dominant…

rc: It could certainly be seen as the most radical if one wishes to take a de-essentialized view of the human being. Of course, the original meaning of radical was “to the root” but, as we know, in a “post-modern” age that has become a very problematic concept. Certainly, capitalism has a peculiar way of simultaneously honoring and cutting off at the root. Globally, “getting back to the roots” seems to be a very conservative phenonema, a search for an ethnic ur-identity, imposition of strict borders, etc. Another way of seeing this, and I don’t necessarily think of it as cynical, is as a form of a capitalist confessional; a form of interrogation, efflorescence, and dismissal. (Or sublation, if you prefer something that sounds more positive.) Another turn of the Hegelian screw, if you will–by way of Foucault–of course. Such a concept of capital, identity, the instability of oppositional stances, etc., certainly problematizes critique to an extreme degree, and I think those who would use cyber culture as a counter-stance would be in for considerable theoretical difficulties. As would also those who seek to use identity as a bulwark of some kind. Perhaps they should go back and read Poe’s, The Masque of the Red Death. Perf: So Cyborgs, as an aspect of the Doll Universe, ARE or ARE NOT radical and liberatory?

cp: Neither radical nor liberatory; and both. Again, cyborgization is a BOUNDARY situation. For some it is an opportunity to short-circuit the politics of identity, for others a way “to possess machines in a sexually gratifying way,” as McLuhan might say. It’s the boundary where one experiences intensely a tearing apart, a laceration, a perforation… Whether, like Oedipus, one says, “Am I made [hu]man in the hour in which I cease to be?” is an individual matter. The outcome, even for the individual, is often uncertain…indecideable…maybe unknowable.

rc: Well, again I would say it depends on what you mean by “liberatory” and “radical.” You could look at it this way: Are the astronauts liberated from gravity when they are in outer space? In a sense they are but they are also imprisoned by their incredible technical support system which is undoubtedly a construct of gravity. Even if they were able to cut free of the earth completely, the template of their bodies (and mental, conceptual orientations) would carry the intimate and unexpungeable imprint of gravity. The Doll Universe is perhaps as radical and liberated as “life” (or perhaps a re-membrance of life) is possible to become, and still retain any semblance of such an appellation. And even so, many humans would no doubt consider it to be an evil because it’s so detached from human reality as to form a threat to human existence…and, of course, in that they are correct.

Perf: I seems to me that all of this implies a certain hubris on humanity’s part that we can actually have such ultimate control of energy and matter. Perhaps there are certain parts of the construction of the universe that humans will just not be privy to.

rc: In fact, that’s what the Doll Universe is predicated on, that is, that there are distinct limits to human abilities, both body and mind. At some point, perhaps, both have to be discarded. With the advent of the Doll Universe, by any previous standards of human life and community, we will have entered the land of the dead and the departed (and which has always been the arena of mythology). To enter fully into the so-called technological singularity, which is another name for the Doll Universe, is to take a ride with boatman Charon, that other famous kybernete . I don’t know that many of us are ready for that journey but more and more it appears to be one we must take, even if at times it comes to seem a forced march and, looking back at the history of the twentieth century as we are about to leave it, a death march.