On the Look for a Telematic Body

A symposium in the context of the "Manifestation for the Unstable Media 5."

On the Look for a Telematic Body

On the Look for a Telematic Body: Hans Ulrich Reck; photo: Jan Sprij

Oct 1993
09:00 to 15:30
location: Cultureel Centrum de Muzerije, Hinthamerstraat 74, 's Hertogenbosch

This symposium was organized in close collaboration with Dietmar Kamper. Kamper is professor in sociology at the Freie Universität Berlin. His branch of science, since it differs from regular sociology, is often called historical anthropology. Together with Christoph Wulf, Kamper edited many collections of essays, a.o. about laughter, the holy and the return of the body. His contributions to media theory mainly consist of observations about the nature of human perception. For this symposium, Kamper formulated the initial theses; he was chairman of the discussion.

According to Kamper, the actual discourse about the new electronic media has produced many insights about the use of those media. Both supporters and opponents of electronic media accept that media and the way people interact with them, show an aversion of the body. The general hypothesis for this is: media take away our corporality. The human body is complemented with prostheses or even entirely replaced, so that in the best case an interfering part remains. A person who watches TV experiences his/her physical body as a mere appendix.

Kamper gave the symposium and his own opening lecture the title On the Look for a Telematic Body. He invited the following guests:

- Dr. Arthur Engelbert (D) from the Media Institute in Berlin;

- Dr. Siegfried Zielinski (D) who, at that time, was a teacher at the ZKM in Cologne;

- Dr. Hans Ulrich Reck (CH), professor at various art academies in Vienna, Basel and Zürich. His lecture was entitled Body Criticism, Pure Mind and the Real Thing;

- Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, teaching at the university of Montréal, who talked about Virtual Sex - Recombinant Bodies.

Dietmar Kamper introduced the following thesis. Is it true that the body is disappearing under the influence of electronic media, and do these media indeed demonstrate an aversion of the body? Kamper tried to oppose this assumption. He stated that the excessive use of new media rather results in a physical experience -- a very different assumption from the thesis that was formulated above. According to Kamper, it seems that the devaluation of the body belongs to a historically obsolete frame of reference.

Kamper wished for systematic research into the experiences and responses of bodies that use electronic media. Interactions between media and the body are far more complex than the above hypothesis. Therefore, the presumptions about concepts of the body would have to be analyzed. In this way, we would be able to form an opinion about the physical experience that would help us to understand and explain present developments. According to Kamper, the electronic media do not liquidate the body, but a historically defined concept of the body that has become reality for us.

Because it is apparently more than just a coincidence that right now, in the middle of our highly electronic culture, the crisis of the physical experience is being acknowledged and stated (...) Because it expresses its 'presence' by ways of concept and gesture rhetoric, that from strategic considerations might be interpreted as exaggerated and hysterical, the physical experience has regained our attention and in an impressive way places its existence against its simulation.

(Vivian Sobchak, The scene of the screen, in Materialität der Kommunikation, Frankfurt, 1988, p. 427).

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