Interactive Futures - 2007

Interactive Futures 2007 ( November 15 - 17 ) Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Ted Hiebert

Delirious Screens: Flesh Shadows of Cool Technology

Behind the screen, there is nothing. Not darkness, not fantasy, not even the flickering lights of consciousness aroused. And yet, within the screen, the case is quite the opposite – here, within the delirium of technological living we encounter an intensified imaginary, new worlds of interactive possibility, in short, new opportunities for the falsification of being. This provocation has strategic purpose, for the question of screen culture is less about the technological possibilities initiated by invention, and much more about the delirious seduction of a life screened-in.

Here, amidst the growing participatory potential of interactivity, the icy prophecy of McLuhan’s “cool technology” is brought to the cold light of the Lacanian mirror. For, as Lacan knew well, behind the mirror there is also nothing, which is why it becomes so urgent to invent a fantastic something to which technological effect can be attributed. The mirror, one might posit, is the first screen, the first “cool technology” – the instance where the participatory performance of living first takes on its split dynamic between the “hot” social and cultural self and its “cool” other.

The screen, however, also does something that the mirror never could – namely, it allows for its fantasy to be realized, and not only in potential. The very condition of screen-culture rests on a will-to-delirium implicit in the amplification of imaginative possibilities. Delirious Screens is conceived as an exploration of this delirious imperative of cool technology, revisiting questions of performance and subjectivity under the sign of an increasingly participatory technological world. Juxtaposing the intellectual perspectives of thinkers of technology, psychoanalysis and the imagination, the central concern of this paper is the relationship between self-conception and the imaginary in an age of technological interactivity.

The argument will be made that the increasingly participatory imperative of technological engagement has as its effect the willful suspension of historical modes of conception in favour of an aesthetics of possibility, a perspective whose consequence is, on one hand, the opening up of new modalities of interactivity and, on the other, a paradoxical reassessment of corporeality. Not simply a self bound to the shadows of technological possibility, the realized imaginary has, as its cast shadow, the delirium of corporeal being itself. Here, the body becomes the cast shadow of technology, illuminated by the possibilities of participatory imaginative engagement.


Ted Hiebert is a Canadian visual artist and theorist. His artworks have been exhibited across Canada in public galleries and artist-run centres, most recently at La Salle Augustin-Chénier (Ville-Marie, QC, 2007) and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge, AB, 2006). His theoretical writings have appeared in The Psychoanalytic Review, Technoetic Arts and Performance Research, among others. Hiebert is the Editorial Assistant for CTheory journal and a Research Assistant at the Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture at the University of Victoria.


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