This is the version that MONDO 2000 *didn't* publish.

Interviewers: Paco Xander Nathan, Jon Lebkowsky, Dave Demaris

Allucquere Rosanne Stone: I notice the expression 'multiplicity' being kicked around at one conference or another, so multiplicity is apparently a happening thing all of a sudden. That's nice to see, because the advantage of multiplicity as a political strategy is that it's a way of disrupting the idea that people are single personalities, which is a method of political control.

Stephen Hawking is one of the examples of that. Because he uses a voice prosthesis, his vocal presence is electronic whether you're standing next to him or on Mars, so you're not sure where his edges are. Multiplicity is another way of not being sure where people's edges are, because there are a lot of them in the same physical envelope, and you're never really sure which one you've got. Politically it's a complete no-no -- when you name a person you've named all of them. There's only one identity. All the others are bogus, and that's a specific political strategy. It's a way of nailing people down, and controlling them. The idea of creating the illusion that everybody is singular is a way of producing a particularly manageable, tractable kind of identity. But nobody is really singular.

Dave Demaris: The amazing thing to me is that people refer to obvious collectivities, large organizations, as persons....

Jon Lebkowsky: The way it struck me was that most people just can't handle that multiplicity. People who can handle multiplicity are aware of it, and they just sort of deal with it that way. But the average everyday guy, if you start talking to him about how "I'm a multiplicity of cells" or "the government is a multiplicity of organizations," or whatever, he just gets lost.

Paco Xander Nathan: Is that because of too many reality filters?

JL: Yeah, I think that most people only handle one perspective at a time. They can't take a whole rainbow of possibilities and grasp 'em all at once...

ARS: Ambiguity or multiplicity are anathema. It's like walking up to somebody and saying "Hey, you're not really a guy, you're just trained to think you're a guy, your identity doesn't have to be singular, think of yourself as a boat at anchor in a sea of possibilities, all you have to do is pull up the anchor...and you can drift around in this field..." And they don't get it.

JL: When you say not really a guy, do mean like in the sense of...just gender? Gender programming?

ARS: Gender programming, yes, but gender's only a part of our socialization. Let's stay with gender for a minute, though. I look around the table here and I see three guys, and you know...however you see me...and that may be a consensual hallucination that we whip up for each other, but it's not just us doing it, we're part of a whole structure of power that constrains us to do it.

JL: There's an essential difference there, and we've added a layer and layer of bullshit onto that...

ARS: Culturally...

JL: And what I see now in the gender-bender thing is that people are trying to strip those layers away and see what's really there.

ARS: Uh-huh. And that's really _dangerous._ It's dangerous because, the way power structures work, it really scares people.

PXN: The analogy is with LSD two decades ago. It seems directly connected, because again you're stripping away the reality filters, and the whole power structure is coming down, and realizing that people won't necessarily that a conscious idea or movement now? Something that people ought to look out for? Learning from the mistakes of the past?

ARS: Yes, well, politically, acid was much more dangerous, first of all, because it really stripped you down to the bone.

JL: You were hacking perception there, and you were hacking reality.

PXN: Yours or everybody else's?

JL: Well, maybe everybody else's, too. We're all one, and when you start hacking your own reality, you're hacking everybody's reality, in a sense, at least. One thing about the hacker spirit that makes it dangerous is that it doesn't always think about consequences or it doesn't alway know to be careful.

ARS: Tim Leary was onto this very early, and from a political point of view doing it with chemicals was very dangerous. People are doing minority discourse and queer theory from a similar standpoint to what Tim Leary was doing, pointing out that what we call reality is somebody's construction, and that it isn't always our construction of choice. Hmm...Looking to Tim Leary for one of the origins of minority discourse...that's like looking to Marshall McLuhan for the origin of multimedia, except I can't imagine Woody Allen pulling Tim Leary out of a line at a movie theatre....

JL: I don't know, I could. To buy a tab of acid from him.

PXN: People online are talking about multiplicity, and it strikes me that the issue of interface is something we really have to struggle with. Are people looking beyond interface now, and getting into inner experience? Is that why you started talking about multiplicity?

ARS: I think that people are beginning to realize that the definition of interface that we grew up with, like a GUI, is way too narrow to contain what's actually going on. You can look at interface, first of all, as anything across which agency changes form, and that's a better way to look at it. An even better way to look at it is that an interface is that thing which mediates between a body and an associated subjectivity, an associated person. But it doesn't have to be _this_ body and _this_ person, it can be this body and _some_ _other_ person. It's the thing which provides some link between those two things, wherever they are. That's the definition of interface that you use naturally when you're in the Internet, you know, when you are in your body at the terminal and your self is actually pouring out through your fingers to somewhere else in the world. The interface is the thing that mediates between them.

PXN: Or your image when you're dancing with somebody at the Electronic Cafe.

ARS: Yes. That is exactly the same thing that's going on. That's a new way of thinking about it.

JL: So where is the interface? In so-called cyberspace?

ARS: "Where is the interface?" is an unanswerable question.

JL: Or "What is the interface?"

ARS: That's an unanswerable question, too. I mean, it's unanswerable because the more you try to figure where it is, then the harder it becomes to find. As we get to the end of the mechanical age, and we start into a different kind of age, the definitions of what changes agency become very hard to actually talk about. The closer you look at them, the harder they are to find. That's a riff on Heisenberg, if you will. For the same reasons.: An interface is a metaphor. We used to think of it as a physical object, a keyboard...but interfaces are metaphors, and they stand in for absent structures, and the absence is the important word there, they're ABSENT structures. They're not where you could see them. It doesn't even mean that they are inside the machine, but they're in an elsewhere, they're in a virtual location. You can call that "location" cyberspace, or you can call it symbolic exchange -- there are lots of words that you can use for interfaces. But they work, anyway, they have tremendous power. You can't see 'em, but they still do things.

JL: I witnessed a conversation on an Internet mailing list. Someone was saying that the cyberspace metaphor is very misleading, using a space metaphor for something that is so unlike space.

ARS: As soon as people start talking about space they start thinking in cartesian terms, and none of this stuff is really cartesian, so it is an unfortunate metaphor but nobody has come up with any other one that's stuck. And let's face it, it's become an object of discourse that we're not going to dislodge, so we might as well get used to it.

DD: In the terms of our sensory modalities, you can see space in the way that, as a baby born to touch, we immediately try to separate things into objects. I don't think there's as much of an immediate impulse to reduce a field to a collection of objects as there is in vision, so if that has anything to do with have to construct objects before you pump them out ...

ARS: Yes, yes, you have to do that mentally.

DD: You have to do that mentally, so you can't make the field as easily, I guess.

ARS: Yeah. Well, socially, we are raised to think of things in terms of objects, and we think of definitions where we can put down some things and give them some attributes, in other words, define them. We're not going to get out of that very easily, because of the way this particular reality happens to work.

PXN: But people know how to play with the reality very naturally without thinking about it. You were talking about play being very essential to what you're accomplishing here at the media lab.

ARS: Yes, there are two ways. The older thing is that...even Vannevar Bush thought about computers as being a kind of a switch...a super switch, but a switch, anyway. And even though the early computer people thought of computers as being a kind of prosthesis, you know, a tool, a thing through which agency flows, they were still thinking out of an earlier paradigm, and the transition to the newer paradigm is the one that we're going through now, and it's going to make all of the computers that we use obsolete very quickly. Which is a problem if you're buying computers for a lab. (laughter) The new one is computers as arenas for experience, essentially, as Brenda Laurel talks about it, computers as theatre. There's a field called Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, the idea behind which is that what computers really do is to support us in doing work. There's another side of that paradigm, and I call it Computer Supported Cooperative Play. That's the idea that what most of us are going to do with computers, rather than work with them, is play with them. _With_ them. They take an active part in the process. Through play, an unstructured interaction in which there's a complex exchange between you and the device, you and it teach each other, really. Playing requires a different kind of openness than work, and different and quite deep learning takes place during play. And this isn't something that happens in the future...some kids already spend more time playing computer games than they do watching TV, which is a whale of a lot of time. We haven't even begun to address that.

A lot of schools and businesses don't let people get online, because they think of access to the net as a chance to just fuck around. But this is the future of computation...the idea of the ludic sensibility, the idea of experimentation. Unstructured messing around, invoking a sense of fun, and of mystery...all of the things that are important to the learning experience, which is not a dry, soulless thing. When we first start doing it on our own, before we get into schools, it's always a thing that's filled with mystery, and it's filled with danger and with fun and humor, and with chance encounters. And that's what computers are going to mediate or prostheticize, if we find our way through this morass....

PXN: Something about the MUDs just really bugs the hell out of me, though. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there are so many people that I know that are very comfortable with computers, and express that same feeling of disturbance. I haven't pinned it down yet, but if I had to try, I would probably invoke The Robot Group as a counter-example, because to be on a MUD, you have to have this thing, it's still an object. And even though you can use it to get into this land of play, you still have to basically bow and pray before an object with type on it. But to look at it like the Robot Group...they've set up the premise of play, and the things they've created are nominally computers, but they don't look like it, and they don't play like it...they feel they're being played with. Have you been studying that?

ARS: Yes, but you have to remember that MUDs in their present form are not the future of Computer Supported Cooperative Play. They're a kind of primitive instantiation, a prelude to better things. Some very interesting people, like John Garnett in the ACTlab, are designing graphic based MUDs and MOOs that aren't dependent on text, in which the objects talk to each other and evolve in a Darwinian way even when no biologically based people are logged in. Those will be much more engaging and challenging environments. People in today's MUDs still have one foot in the old paradigm. As the text object goes away we'll be shifting the focus of the interaction from the clunky computer to more like what the Robot Group is doing, things like wearable technology, and cyborg technology...

PXN: The triceratop's transition into a small furry mammal.

ARS: Right. The hardware is still there, we still work with this big box. But we're moving toward a period of ubiquitous, cyborg technology.

PXN: Right, warm-blooded computers! I love it.

ARS: It truly is warm-blooded computers, because in cyborg technology the boundary between you and the machine disappears. It becomes a true prosthetic, which is to say, an invisible, impalpable and unconscious extension of your own agency, where you no longer struggle with the keyboard, and you no longer think about this barrier between you and what it is that's going on. It becomes part of your presence, and that's what ubiquity is all about. It becomes invisible by changing shape, not being a box on the desk any more, just the way mainframes stopped being big things, and shrank to the size of a box on the desk. That took many many years...IBM only saw the writing on the wall this year! Now we've still got the little boxes to contend with, but some people, very fortunately, are getting beyond the box to the hand held computer, and shortly they'll go beyond the handheld computer to the wearable computer, and beyond the wearable computer to the ubiquitous or cyborg computer. And of course that's not a computer at all, any more. It's something new.

PXN: Is this credible in academia? Is this something that the academic world understands and groks, and pretty much agrees on, or is this still a matter of contention.

ARS: Well, this depends on whom you're talking to, and what their agendas are. This is something that the Media Lab at MIT fooled around with for a while. They did very good things with it, but they're also oriented in the direction of demonstrating potentially marketable products. And that was not the time for that commercial product, so now they're onto other things. It's hard to figure out just what the various academic nodes that are doing stuff like this are into. A lot of them are still thinking of high tech interactive multimedia in terms of hypercard stacks, and this is a real problem. They're thinking of interactive tv in terms of touch tone, where you get different views of a football game. And this is so sad, because it's what we're likely to get for interactive tv, it's not even truly seeking interaction anymore.

PXN: Yeah, in the current issue of Mondo, we're talking about a guy in Philadelphia who gets laptops and makes wearables, and sells them to people out of his garage. If he can do it, certainly Apple can do it.

ARS: Garage wearability. Yeah, but I think somebody like Apple's gonna do it a few years later in a little bit more sophisticated way.

PXN: It seems like Silicon Valley and everybody else is running to the beat of this drummer that has trendlike projections coming out of laptops.

ARS: Deep interactivity is not going to come from there. It might come from Sega, and it might come from Nintendo.

JL: There's a golden age science fiction story, I can't remember the name of the story, where the protagonist lands on a planet that seems to be totally primitive, there's no sign of technology anywhere. And the bottom line is that the technology is so advanced that it's invisible.

DD: Stanislaw Lem writes that story over and over again...

ARS: There was a wonderful one called _A Martian Odyssey_ which sort of touched on that, which was about the same period, I think.

PXN: Atlantis and Lemuria, First Foundation and Second Foundation, and that kind of story over and over again. Getting back to mind techniques, I get the sense that you're seeing mind over body...

JL: It wasn't just mind, they did it with machine technologies, but they were just so integrated, so totally integrated, that you couldn't see them anyhwere.

ARS: Yes, like contact lenses. That's the most classic example I can think of at the moment, it's a prosthetic that disappears into your body, and then you forget it's there, until, as with any tool, it suddenly becomes visible because it stops working. That's a whole different story. But Silicon Valley is still coming inescapably from the computer paradigm to the laptop paradigm, and with the experience of having been burned to the chops on computer games. Look what happened to Atari. So in the meantime, over there in left field, we've got Sega and we've got Nintendo, which are, in their particular way, going to take over the world, not in terms of computation, but in terms of a very significant intrusion into deep interactivity. I don't think that anybody is noticing the link, which doesn't yet exist, between what those guys are doing, and what the Silicon Valley people are doing in terms of interactive technology. And in the meantime, Sega and Nintendo are running away with the market, they're doing amazing things. We use them as examples in the ACTlab.

JL: One of the things I see wrong with computer games is exemplified in Castle Wolfenstein.

ARS: Yes, it's been around for a long, long time.

JL: And the thing about's kind of an interesting three-dimensional, virtual reality sort of environment, but what the guy does, and this is somewhat controversial, is shoot people. He runs through a castle where there's pictures of Hitler and swastikas on the wall, and he shoots people.

PXN: Identifiable icons that will motivate people to violence, right?

ARS: Yes. These guys are making millions and millions of dollars on essentially producing nothing more than bang-bang shootemup games, but at the same time they are putting into place an incredible technology. These guys are developing the tools for imagination, for play, and for VR and putting those things in place in a way that hasn't yet been used or noticed by the people who are doing educational texts.

JL: Have you read issue #10 of bOING bOING? The thing that I wrote about the VR arcade? You have tokens, you're in the arcade, you have a full-body VR suit on, and you're having a series of sexual experiences, and you can push the button like you can in a contemporary arcade. You change the image, and there's a sense of a completely detached sexual experience, jumping from one to another. I was interested in talking about that, and about gender switch, which I was trying to explain so someone from China. It's not easy to explain gender bender stuff to someone from China.

PXN: One third of the planet.

JL: Yeah, and I think they're pretty rigidly structured, where gender is concerned. I'm not sure she was getting it.

ARS: I'm not sure there's a whole lot you can do about that. Gender bending is such a complex area...For instance, two transsexuals making love is an interesting situation, because many transies have considerable socialization in both of the usual gender roles. They have well-developed multiple identities in that respect. So there can be a continuous sort of shifting of sexuality between the poles of traditional gender experience when transies make love. Sometimes it's homosexual love, and sometimes it's heterosexual love, sometimes it's reverse homosexual love, or reverse heterosexual love, sometimes none of those, and you can't figure out what the hell the categories are, or if there are really supposed to be categories. Some heterosexual couples tell me they feel as if they float out of their usual gender identities during lovemaking, but they usually don't have extensive dual socialization as a background for those experiences.

PXN: That would be perfect for VR...

ARS: Yes, I think that transsexuals invented VR...(laughter)

JL: We were talking about a man experiencing sex as a woman experiences it, or vice versa, which is something that....

ARS: No! No! You can't.... When you say a man experiences sex differently from a woman experiencing sex, you have to understand that men and women are trained and socialized to experience sex differently, and that means that if you were raised as a man you can never experience sex as a woman. Even if you could put on a woman's body, you could never understand what it was like to have sex as a woman unless you were _socialized_ as a woman. Sex is not just physical, it's social.

JL: But this is the whole gender switch thing that they keep talking about doing in VR, about how now you're a man, but you can be a woman...

ARS: It's bullshit! All bullshit, folks!

PXN: Don't you think it's more a matter of social tension...I mean, sex adds tension, rather than sex as a mechanical act?

ARS: Sure, in fact sex is all about social tension, except at the most elementary level. So what about all this stuff about being able to try on other bodies in cyberspace? If you want sex as a mechanical act, you want to put on a clitoris, maybe we could make you a cybersex suit so you could physically feel like you had a clitoris. But that's experiencing a clitoris overlaid on your experience of having a penis. So as long as you've got a penis that reacts sexually when you imagine that you have a clitoris, that's not going to work. You can't experience what it's like to have a clitoris as long as what responds is a penis, or vice versa. That's just the physical problem. Then there's the virtual problem. The hype about sex in VR is, you can be a physical male and experience being in a woman's body. Well, it doesn't work. Bodies are bodies, but it's the _meaning_ you assign to bodies, and to different parts of bodies -- including your own -- that makes them erotic and desirable, and meaning is one hundred per cent social. You could look down in the simulation and see that you had a woman's body, and maybe you could feel a simulacrum of certain sensations, but you wouldn't be experiencing a woman's'd be experiencing your _fantasy_ of what a woman's body might be like...and that's sometimes true even if you happen to _be_ a woman. That is, a genetic female who performs woman socially.

PXN: Still too damn cold-blooded.

ARS: Yeah. But unless you're willing to take the time to realize how asymmetrical gendering works, how asymmetrical power structures work, and how asymmetrical socialization works, you can never understand what it is to be on the other side of that line. Because it's not just two people looking at each other from opposite poles of an experience. It's not equal and opposite, it's unequal and opposite, because in our society men and women are not equal. And that's also true for...ever heard of a book _Black Like Me_?

It's written by a guy who dyed his skin black and passed for black in the south, to see what it was like to be black. He seems to have gotten some black socialization in the process, and that's because he did it over a period of several months... he didn't get that socialization overnight. But even at the end of that time, he only knew what it was like from the standpoint of the oppression that he experienced over those months. He had no conception what it was like to have that kind of oppression from birth. It's the same situation with gender switch. Gender switch is a wonderful thing to talk about, because it has such interesting potential, but at the same time there's this element of bullshit to it. It's a real kick for men to cross-dress on the net as women, because they get a lot of attention. But that doesn't tell them anything about the other side of getting that attention, about being an object rather than a subject of desire. Being a person whose social role is one down, who can be perceived romantically. Not thinking about those things is what makes it possible for men to swarm around people who log in as women on the net.

If we could actually put a man inside a woman's head, give him the whole process of socialization so he understood what it's like to be a woman, he might find it wasn't the terrific experience that he expected. He would understand from the woman's side about the defenses and the dodges that women must practice in order to survive. If you want to be black for a while, that's great, if you seriously want to take on an oppression to find out what it's like to become an exotic other, great, do it! And if you want to become a woman, if you really want to take on the oppression that you have to take on in order to be a woman, in order to find out what that's like, then great, do it! Then maybe you've earned the right to romanticize it.

PXN: It's like somebody who's marginally famous. They have to deal with the desire of people to talk to them, but that also conflicts with...

ARS: ...their desire to be themselves.

JL: I knew a couple, briefly, who were both at different stages of sex change, both guys who were becoming women, perhaps not a couple, just two people who were living together. And one was much farther along than the other. There was something that was never quite right, especially the one who was much farther along. She was so much like a woman, yet not a woman, I could sense that. This supports what you were saying....

ARS: There's a whole spectrum within the field of transgender, there are transgendered people who feel like cross-dressing is what they want to do, and there are people who like going back and forth across the boundaries. There are people who need surgery because that makes them happy, and there is everything in between. But what is the socialization element involved in transgender, in going across those genders and getting to the other side?

DD: There are irreversible processes that you can't get across, even if you make those physical changes, right?

ARS: Yeah, how much oppression can you learn? Look at James Morris. James Morris climbed Mt. Everest with the Hilary-Tenzing expedition, and wrote about it, and wrote other fantastic travel pieces. Then he decided that his deep identity was really a woman, he was really Jan Morris, and did a sex change, and he reported on it. She says "I kept getting told, subtly, that as a woman I was supposed to be incompetent. Well, you know, if women are supposed to be incompetent, I guess maybe I'd better learn to be incompetent." So she set out to do that, and said "The more I was told I was incompetent, the more incompetent I became. People began opening doors for me, and you know, okay..." That apparently was not her idea of what constituted femininity, but it turned out to be part of the package. So she went along, she learned that socialization, and apparently she's done a very good job of it...not necessarily the incompetent part, but a good job of living as a woman. Any of those positions in society are learned, they don't come by nature, and for whatever reason we may want to occupy them, maybe it has something to do with a crazy view of socialization, maybe it has nothing to do with socialization at all, and maybe you just have to learn the socialization in order to get on with life. I dunno. That's a complete mystery to me.

PXN: One thing I'd really like to talk about is multiculturalism, which is very fashionable...

ARS: Politicallly correct.

PXN: Yeah, it 's a good thing that this has come so far, but is multiculturalism a gateway into deeper issues of transgenderism that should be discussed?

ARS: Yes, because multiculturalism is an aspect of multiplicity, and a fragmentation....

PXN: Is that an agenda item, then, for a lot of people? Is that something that's being pushed that standard college freshmen don't see?

ARS: Yeah, it definitely is. And it leads to some interesting problems. Inside the academy, you get people celebrating multiculturalism, and the idea of the wonders of difference and the need to perpetuate cultural identities so that everyone can have a voice and an individuality. Then you go out in the world, and instead of finding everybody of Spanish or Mexican or Indio descent arguing over whether they should call themselves Latinos or Mexicanos or Indios, what you find instead is some are doing that, and some are rushing as fast as they can to be assimilated into the mainstream white culture. So who's for multiculturalism? It depends on whom you're talking to. Some people don't want shit to do with multiculturalism. They want to get in there with the oppressor, and just have a good time!

PXN: Let's discuss your works, what you've been publishing.

ARS: There's this business about the crisis of representation in the social sciences. In a funny way I kind of wandered into the social sciences because I came in off the street in the rain into the wrong doorway. And now I'm drifting away from social sciences, and I'm slipping down the soapy pole of performance art. I think this is the way to go for me, because it resolves certain problems that I've been having with the question of representation in the social sciences, which is that, if you're talking about minority discourse, and you're talking about post-transsexual theory, and you want to do things like queer theory, which I think is an aspect of minority discourse, and you want to do some of the more interesting work which is still on the fringes of academia, the traditional way of dealing with academic subjects is that you do theory.

Theory means that you get up at conferences and you read your research to an audience of other academics. I find myself drifting away from that, and into performance, where you raise the issues in terms of a question of sensibility and aesthetics, and you get at people from a more emotional level.

Instead of dealing with the technical issues of the way that queer theory works or the way that minority discourse works, as we're inclined to do in the academy, I'm experimenting with pointing out that what many the issues of minority discourse and of queer theory and of post-transsexual theory are about is really a kind of performance, and that the theatre for that performance is the body. But it's not an abstract body. It's not just _a_ body or _some_ body, it's specifically grounded, it's _this_ body, it's _my_ body or _your_ body. Our bodies are the place where whatever pain and coercion the political apparatus can exert upon you comes down to ground. Multiplicity is one of the strategies for addressing this, but what we're talking about as much as the joys and problems of multiplicity is how you deal with the problem of political systems that exert control on you through the medium of physical coercion and pain. And it's a fuck of a practical problem.

PXN: How about being able to pass this body of wisdom etc. on to the next generation, does that work through performance?

ARS: Did Genet pass on a body of wisdom?

PXN: Yeah, yeah...

ARS: Yes, I am inclined to think so. It's a different body of wisdom, it's not something that you can articulate in terms of words and phrases that you can parse. It's passed on in a different way. It's a way for which there's a place in particular academic areas and not in others. But if you're getting to the point, as I may be, where you begin to think that theory may be exhausting itself, then you have to start looking for new ways to do the same thing.

PXN: It sounds like you're re-inoculating the culture with storytelling, and with the great traditions that may have been lost, may have been subdued.

JL: Yeah, how does that work in the academic political context.

ARS: In many academic contexts, it's shit, you's anathema, it's dangerous. But in some areas, it's not so dangerous. One of the things that I hope to see come out of the center for the arts and technology that we're planning here is the possibility of getting these two frames of reference together in one place, and in one arena, where you have the arts and technology producing things that are beneficial to both. Now if we can incorporate theory with new forms of academic representation at the intersections of art and technology, then we're taking a jump into a new area where there's real promise.

JL: You're blowing the myth of the two cultures away.

ARS: Yeah...seriously!

PXN: On the other side of it, people like Stelarc seem already to have jumped some boundaries. People doing that kind of performance art, but very high tech, seem very sexy to the people who are also high tech, and ensconced in theory.

ARS: Yes.

PXN: Yet you're coming from the other side...can you leapfrog off them?

ARS: I think you can. As a matter of fact, I talk about Stelarc in some of my courses for precisely that reason, and for better or worse I talk about the Fakir, because he's also useful in a lot of ways. The Fakir is a real interruption, if you use certain pictures of him. I like to put up a picture of the Fakir hanging by hooks through his pecs, blowing on his bone whistle. The last time I did this I was talking to about 400 undergraduates, and I said "I'm going to show you a slide now, and I want you to pay attention to what happens when I show this to you. First of all, I'm going to tell you intellectually what's going to happen. You're going to go 'Holy Shit!' and for just an instant there, something very peculiar is going to happen inside you, and then we're going to go back and pursue what that was when it happened," and then I put the Fakir slide up, and the audience goes ...they invariably do, they just come apart for an instant there. And then I say, "All right, what just happened?"

For just an instant, this image really disrupts your normal train of thought. You can't just go on from the second before that rupture to the second after as if nothing happened, because this guy makes you want to throw up for just that second, it's _really strange._ And in that instant, the nuts and bolts that make up the way reality works suddenly become visible, and if you can grab hold, and use that interruption as an entry point to open up the seamless quality of everyday reality, then you have some idea about ...not only how to change your perception, but also something about how your social structure works. You have to learn to develop that moment, the moment of rupture, to develop the sensitivity to those moments, to hold onto them and use them for yourself, as reality tools.

PXN: I was thinking how "The Crying Game" is the pop movie of 1993, the timing just couldn't be better.

ARS: I was very pleased that it did what it did. I run into a lot of people who say, "Oh, I knew it from the beginning." So what? It still fucks with your head with identity in so many different ways, and with the issues of passing in so many different ways, passing politically, passing as an individual, passing for subjectivity, passing for gender, and they all keep coming up and getting twisted and confused. Stelarc and the people who do the kind of work that Stelarc does, and the Fakir in his way, are all doing things about remapping the surface of the body, and pointing out that when you remap the body you remap the way sensation works with regard to the body, and you can use those sensations differently from the ways you're accustomed to thinking about how sensations are used. So sensation becomes a kind of plastic thing itself, another art medium.

When you start doing that kind of thing, you've got to be careful of how people perceive the meaning of what you're doing. Society in the large perceives pain as an aspect of social control. So it's important to make distinctions, to draw boundaries and take sides. For instance, you can't let remapping bodily sensation as a tool for personal expression get confused with torture, where pain is a political tool for personal oppression. So when people start to use pain in performance as a way of remapping the body's sensorium, they have to be careful to remember that while they're doing that very ludic, very important work, at that very same moment pain is being used somewhere in ways that are not fun, it's being used as an adjunct of control. When you're doing a scene, and you're hurting somebody, and they haven't said their safe word yet...though you know that you're hurting them, that's an entirely different thing from having somebody in prison strapped to a table and slowly raising the electric voltage when no safe word exists. We have to figure out how to deal with both. We have to find a workable political framework that deals with both, that finds some way to expose the reality of torture and get rid of it, while at the same time preserving the validity of play in the sadomasochistic framework. That's a fuck of a problem. I don't have any easy answers, I don't have any answers at all. Does that make any sense?

PXN: Yeah, it does. I'm not coming off the angle of torture as much as the angle of terror, I think that we have to learn to validate terror a lot more...

JL: That's just another kind of pain, psychological pain...

PXN: We've had our first terrorist bombing in the U.S., as you know. We have to come to grips with terror. It keeps us in check-and-balance, but we've been denying it for a couple of hundred years here...

ARS: Oh, boy, is the net alive with that argument right now, have you been following any of this? There's a tremendous amount of discussion of terror right now, and some of the people who live in countries where terror is the order of the day are saying "It's about time you guys got on the program!"

JL: I was thinking about those millenialists in Waco, too...

PXN: I was hanging out with the PLO in the early 80s, and I guess a lot of my mind-set comes out of the fact that I personally validate terror in that sense, intellectually, not in terms of going out and doing random car bombings, but I recognize it as a means of political action.

JL: Poetic terrorism.

PXN: Yeah....

ARS: That's the Hakim Bey approach to terrorism. There's a real problem with the word. People are being very careful about talking about poetic terrorism and real terrorism.

JL: What Hakim Bey's talking about is subversion rather than real terrorism....

PXN: In summary, I've got this question for you. People ask, "I wanna major in cyberspace in college, what kind of book should I read now?" It just strikes me that telling someone to go program in C is not enough...they ought to be developing a different conceptual, intellectual structure...where can a person go?

ARS: Study improv. Read Brenda Laurel, she's incredible, she's brilliant, she's political. And also the book she edited on the art of human-computer interface design. Don Norman on the design of everyday things. Marvin Minsky. Stuart Brand's book on the Media Lab. And of course, Marshall McLuhan. And then read certain selected articles, which is going to sound awfully egocentric...

PXN: Go for it:

ARS: One of them is Stone, in _Incorporations_, which is called "Virtual Systems." The other is Stone, in _Cyberspace, First Steps_, which is called "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up." And then there are several forthcoming things which are not out yet, articles and three books. One of the articles is called "Split Subjects, Not Atoms, or How I Learned to Love My Prosthesis," which will be out very shortly. Then there's a piece coming out in a book called...the subtitle is "The History of Media Induced Experience," and the main title is "Lost Boundaries." That should be out late this year, or early 1994. I have a piece in there which is an extension of this work. The books are "Presence: The war of desire and technology at the close of the mechanical age", and "Transgression: Adventures at the edges of identity". -end-