notes on the obsessions and the rechanneling of energy in the work of judith fegerl
one_ in general a prosthesis is considered to be a substitute, it is worn pros — in addition to (instead of) — mutilated limbs, worn-out organs, defunct sensory organs (tithenai: to place). the attempt to design the substitute realistically, ambitiously simulating nature, is based on the idea of improving upon it, initially pimping the organic mechanically and, increasingly in-line with technological progress and with increasing knowledge about the body itself, also by means of manipulating the organic itself. a stronger hand, a more powerful heart and x-ray vision characterise the super hero. and: enable boundaries to be crossed, convention to be broken with. or: the absorption in/unifying with the ideal. or, simply also only an improved overview, being able to intervene faster, a more direct facility for correction: control.
two_ whereby sooner or later the question arises: am i now a human being or a machine? am i the wearer of various prostheses or am i myself an implant in something larger than me, a greater whole? or, taking the thought further: is such a differentiation even still necessary/possible?
three_ exo-prostheses interact with the wearer, the intersection man/machine permits communication in both directions. the interface makes both parts similar in terms of function. the renewed power, the possibly expanded horizon by implants, alters the wearer. each use of the prosthesis provokes new connections in the brain. it is an attractive prospect.
four_ e.t.a. hoffmann placed himself in a story. as a fictional character he falls in love with olimpia, a mechanical doll belonging to the ostensible physicist spalanzani. hoffmann‘s manic exploits and love-craze are made possible by an interface, glasses, that make him see the world in pink. the device evokes a sense of euphoria, and he fails to notice the shortcomings of the apparatus that only says „yes“. the heavily carousing hoffmann (prosthesis ‚drug‘) believes he sees flesh and blood and love in the alluring mechanism.
five_ for lieutenant commander data, an android constructed for deployment in situations that even people with military training would cower at, contact with his human surroundings has consequences. instead of completing calculations his shrewd positronic brain develops emotions. the robot cries, discovers pleasure and love. he sends unclear messages. data anthropomorphises. his human colleague lieutenant commander geordi la forge, in contrast, becomes so accustomed to his visor (‚visual instrument & sight organ replacement‘, which enables him to see an expanded spectrum of wavelengths and has an x-times zoom function) that he vehemently opposes an operation to return him to „natural“ capability.
six_ civilisation is often thought of as a mega-machine — as a closed cycle of human and all-controlling mechanics: god as a machine, the ‚system‘ as a merciless apparatus that, like in franz kafka‘s penal colony, cuts the sentence into the convict‘s back or sets the chocolate grinder in motion in marcel duchamp‘s large glass as soon as desire for a woman/women is aroused in the bachelors. such (fantastic) devices show love as a deadly mechanism or the machine as a permanently stimulating apparatus, as a substitute for human reproduction, which involves so much suffering. (bruno gironcoli, for instance, saw the pilot — himself — of his motherships as permanently secure in cast-iron wombs.)
seven_ in galathean heritage, a love machine of judith fegerl‘s, the separation between procreation and creative function is completed. once in motion the apparatus, nourished with electricity, bears an interwoven umbilical chord (amnion). conserved, the tangle stands for the potential ‚connection‘, it could be a channel or bloodstream or tubing and simultaneously bear anything conceivable, like stem cells, within itself and even have strength and power of output.
eight_ fegerl‘s metronom is a hair ‚prosthesis‘, an in-tact-swinging-doer, a functional extension of the hair‘s roots. in contrast to the mechanics of antiquity, for whom the motor was considered impossible to construct — which is why aristotle addressed the motor in his metaphysics — judith fegerl has the construction know-how for motors. she has no reason to hide it, to ban it behind the wall in the innards of the apparatus. she is an engineer herself, and does not need an aphrodite to awaken her creations. fegerl simply plugs them in; and shares the principle of the machine just as she demands participation and combines the circuits of third parties in a bio-social sculpture. or: joseph beuys‘ honey pump now pumps all blood, and the mechanism that moves edgar allen poe‘s pendulum and pushes all of the walls of the shrinking cell inwards is open to view to everybody anytime.
nine_ judith fegerl‘s apparatuses are not aggressive, the machines‘ invasion of the body is not deadly. the attachment of the prosthesis fulfils the necessity to extend the self. like the opening of the arteries of the exhibition space, the revealing of its service cables does not represent a destructive act. breaking open the surface of the white cube serves to make the neutral space itself a sensual experience but also the envisaging of new lines of supply, the implantation of new sockets and connections to feed back positively into the supply system with its pending prostheses (the artworks and also visitors, so to speak).
published in the catalogue
Judith Fegerl – SELF