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by Elle Mehrmand and Micha Cárdenas

Micha Cárdenas / Azdel Slade is an artist/theorist whose work spans from erotic mixed reality performance in motion capture studios to dislocative border disturbance art in remote desert areas, always striving to find limits and challenge them. Her transreal work mixes physical and networked spaces in order to explore emerging forms of queer relationality, biopolitics and DIY horizontal knowledge production. She is a Lecturer in the Visual Arts department at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She is an Artist/Researcher in the Experimental Game Lab at CRCA and the b.a.n.g. lab at Calit2. Micha holds an MFA from UCSD, an MA in Media and Communications with distinction from the European Graduate School and a BS in Computer Science from FIU. She has exhibited and performed in Los Angeles, Tijuana, New York, San Francisco, Montreal, Egypt, Ecuador, Spain, Ireland and many other places. Micha's work has been written about in publications including the LA Times, CNN, BBC World, Associated Press and Rolling Stone Italy. Read more at http://transreal.org

Elle Mehrmand is a performance/new media artist and musician who uses the body, electronics, video, sound and installation within her work. She is the singer and trombone player of Assembly of Mazes, a music collective who creates dark, electronic, middle eastern, rhythmic jazz rock. Elle is currently an MFA candidate at UCSD, and received her BFA in art photography with a minor in music at CSULB. Elle has received grants from UCIRA, the Russell Foundation and Fine Arts Affiliates. She is a researcher at CRCA and the b.a.n.g. lab at UCSD. Her performances have been shown in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Tijuana, Montreal, Dublin, San Diego and Bogotá. Her work has been discussed in Art21, the LA Times, Juxtapoz Magazine, Networked Performance, Reno News and Review, the OC Weekly, VICE, and Furtherfield.org.


For your protection and the protection of others, put on your N95 mask and latex gloves.

You walk into a room with a table full of instruments covered in iridescent dust, very old instruments from the 2030's, some broken into shards of glass and others burnt. Here in this laboratory, before the myth of rigid national borders was eradicated by the H3N91 mutations, artists experimented with their bodies, applying a Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-Together ethos to medical science. Amidst the collapse of information capitalism, new ways out of the religious dogma of western rational science were re-discovered and re-invented.

The sound of your breath is loud inside of your mask. It is unclear what viruses were found here or not. Approaching a piece of paper on the table half buried under the dust, the faulty nanoscale photon networks flicker into motion, forming most of an image of an encoded memory, meta-text hovering translucently at an angle above the paper describing the scene: 06.07.2037 - Our orgasms will burn down their buildings.

Once the Chicana Coyotek Gang got us past la linea, we ran. We knew that the cambots could tell that we were aroused from our ecg and eeg information data-networks. We trained ourselves to control our heart rates and brain waves so as to be undetected, but the pheromone sensors embedded throughout the city of Les Angeles were sure to track us. I've witnessed cambots transfer civils suspicious of being infected to the federal penitentiary, where the prison slave labor union now resides. The infected are immediately sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment or death.

As soon as I saw the lab, my panties were immediately wet. We ran faster so that the lab could shield us, taking us off the grid. I turned my head to catch a swift glimpse of her beautiful eyes, she tried not to look but couldn't resist. We would always get nervous before our tele-erotic encounters. She flung open the sanitization chamber and we both jumped in. We tore off each others' latex as quick as we could. We have both grown accustomed to enduring the chamber so that we could take off our masks and latex to have haptic sex. I still had to run some tests.
 The observers were waiting in the lab as expected. I turned on the bio-aural interface and the ecg data tool. She laid down on the examination table and I plugged her in. She was wearing the conductive thread metal detecting dress that we made for this experiment. I chose the first examination tool; the slippery metal njoy. I began to tease her body with the shiny toy. As I touched different parts of her blue tooth dress, the audio would change in pitch allowing me to aurally parse the data for diagnosis. I had to slide the luscious silver device up and down her body for at least 10 minutes before I could hear accurate readings of her bio-aural information patterns. This is the preliminary foreplay test where I find out if she has been infected or not.

She passes. I look at her endearingly and get the lube syringe. I spread open those gorgeous legs and insert the syringe in her anal pussy to prep her.  She's all lubed up and ready to go. I go to my utensil tray and pick up the same njoy that I used before. I apply lube to the slippery metal and I let the device push through. She starts using circular tantric breathing to focus her breath. I continue to bang her, and as I thrust my hand back and forth my motion sensitive glove communicates to my strap on vibrator to give me a pulse of vibration. The faster I thrust, the more pulses my wet clit receives. She is now ready for the glowing the glass probe. I generously pour the silky lubrication onto the tip of the glowing phallic wonder, and begin to slide it in her anal pussy. Her rr-intervals change with this larger probe, allowing me to find her interior and hear her with this new intimate perception. The tele-erotic encounter comes to an end, I offer her my hand to help her up. We exit the lab leaving the observers to find their own bodies.

The photon networks run out of fuel from the tiny bit of amino acids still in the paper and the image flickers out. Hyper aware of your physical safety, you see a bit of glass on your latex glove and step back quickly shaking it off. Responding to your step, another table is showered in the cold blue of overhead LEDs, with nothing on it but a single clean sheet of paper. Stepping up to it, you pick up the paper and accidentally activate the memory replay device. Everything around you spins for a moment, you see flashes before your eyes. There is a slight tingle above your right ear as your old neural implant is activated. A scene unfolds before your eyes and you hear the voice embedded in the recorded memory in your neural display. The nanobio interface has taken control of your somatosensory cortex to perfectly recreate the mem, a digitized memory.

She's testing me now. My heartbeats are spread open across the screens. The graph jumps up and down with my breath as she moves her instrument up and down my body, connecting the conductive thread, the low droning pitch modulating over the repeating sound of our recorded voices “testing for viral contamination”. I breathe more heavily, in and out in a circle through my cock, my stomach, my heart, neck and third eye, activating my body for her, preparing for the next phase of testing. Laying on the operating table, I manage to slip open her zipper to reveal her nipple. I know that she knows, but she stays firm in her mission, we must learn about our bodies to escape the control of those who claim to know better than we do.

Still, holding her dom grip firm, she leans over to move her instrument over a far part of my body, teasing me with her nipple just above my mouth... She lubes me up, placing her electronic gloved hand on my eager ass and the looped voices change their pitch instantly as my heart rate jumps. She slips it in me...

Once she thinks I'm ready, she slowly pushes the glass dildo into me, and again my heart rate jumps. The heart rate variability comparison data fluctuates wildly across the color spectrum, the voices multiply, the bass reverberates. All I can do is pound my head back against the table, grab the edges and breathe, my mouth quivering through the breathy moan.

Again the scene spins, you feel the neural tingle above the straps holding your mask on and you're back in the lab. Confused, you're breathing deep and your heart is beating loudly in your ears, you walk around to the other side of the table with the instruments. Above the instruments, a 3-Dimensional image flickers into view of two women facing each other, black masks on, one woman's hands wrapped around the other's neck, a colorful avatar writhing in the background. The sound of two voices alternating are heard.

We are creating femme disturbance. Our corsets, thigh high stockings, metal sex toys and finely crafted glass dildos are not necessary for capitalist production and feminized immaterial labor, and their presence disturbs the rational drive of the work ethic that demands that we sacrifice our desires during a time of crisis. Our desire for each other's femme bodies is in excess of the rhetorics of medical control. Our desire to see each other naked exceeds the laws preventing us from doing so.

Our queer femme expression disturbs the rigid masculinist structures of science, medicine and capital. Together, we are engaging in femme science to develop new modes of knowledge outside of the limited strictures of corporate driven medicine, using our desire and cheap handmade electronics to create our own medicine, to learn about our bodies outside of the bounds of our hetero-patriarchal world. Using biometric monitors, instead of quantification and distanced observation, we create a deeper intimacy with each other, moments of interdependence and intersubjectivity. We have inherited a world with thousands of years of science and thought shaped primarily by men 1, where queer and femme knowledge has been viscously stamped out by western medicine2 , and yet the very time and space we inhabit are not the same as theirs3 , so now we will create our own worlds of knowledge with our bodies. Femme here is an affect, more than an emotion, it is a combination of sensations and desires that drives us. We are inspired by Lisa Duggan and Kathleen McHugh's call for a “femme science [that] is addressed to the future, a future where femininity as we know it (“normal,” ego-less, tolerant of, and therefore complicit with deception) will have been completely superceded.”4 We are pulling these future realities into our own and letting the resulting disturbances to the laws of physics multiply and proliferate.

Our fashion will tear apart the established order. Literally and figuratively, we re-appropriate the objects of clothing which are thought to make up femininity, buying them from sex shops and then deconstruct them, cutting them open, rewiring them with our own conductive thread and sensors to create new queer modes of sexual connection and expression. We buy panties, bras, thigh-highs and choke collars to turn them into new DIY sex toys: an ultrasonic rangefinder bra, a pressure sensing choking collar, touch sensitive dress and a motion sensitive glove that controls a strap-on vibrator. By reconstructing the meaning of science, medicine, femme, love and community we can survive in a world of biopolitical power out of control, a world that tries to kill us every day.

The voices stop. The laboratory overwhelms your somatosensory cortex, creating a schizophrenic space. You run towards the door to escape the virus.circus. You are stopped by text hovering inside the door, seeming to block your way for a moment.

virus.circus follows the viral as a transversal line of inquiry that intersects with the militarization of medical authority, microscopic transnational migrations and global economic inequality. Consisting of an episodic series of performances using wearable electronics, soft sensors and live audio to bridge virtual and physical spaces, the performances explore queer futures of latex sexuality and DIY medicine amidst a speculative world of virus hysteria. The history of queer politics shows that the rhetoric of viruses such as HIV are used to control marginalized populations, while viruses such as H1N1 reproduce these structures of power.

You run out and find your body.

1 Grosz, Time Travels

2 Subrosa, Yes Species

3 Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place

4 “A Fem(me)inist Manifesto”, Lisa Duggan and Kathleen McHugh, in Brazen Femme, edited by Chloe Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri

                                        tinto coffee house