by Miriam Ghobrial
Based on ideas (quoted) from Donna J. Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto – a reading of the posthuman audiovisual worldbuilding of Arca’s Prada/Rakata music video; legend, gender and technology. /* In Venezuela, lives a goddess. The naked goddess rides a tapir. She was the daughter of an indigenous chief, devoured by a serpent and saved by the Sorte mountain. Her soul became one with the mountain. There lives a goddess, a noble queen. With her arms stretched out to the sky, she holds the biological origin of all human life; the bones of the female pelvis, where life is created and given. Of great beauty and great goodness. Her proud stance is supported by her strong body, the weight of what she holds does not weigh her down for she possesses the power to hold it. Loved by nature. In Caracas, Venezuela, the birthplace of singer/composer Arca, the legend of La Reina María Lionza of Yaracuy is displayed, immortalized in stone.
In another world, where other spaces and states of being are constructed, a similar story is told with different tools. In the virtual space, which is a conundrum in and of itself, the new story is etched, sculpted digitally out of intangible digital shapes. Cybernetic Marble. A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction (Haraway, 1985). The digital reconstruction of Arca’s transfeminine body – a cyborg – straddles a static tapir. The naked body dances almost suggestively, completely aware of its own dimensions, of its own damning artificiality. Her digital cyborg hands reach above her, attempting to hold the weight of life’s origin like her mythical predecessor.
Is the cyborg allowed to hold the pelvis in its artificial hands?
She dances to an electronic tune, whispering words charged with transgressive desire. Despite the artificiality tune and imagery, cultural roots are not removed. A digital reimagining, a reconfiguration of latinx musical and mythical culture is engendered in Arca’s dynamic cybernetic world.
A fiery glowing liquid behind the animated body trickles down into a symbol of transgenderism: the fire of the cyborg struggle to exist. Flashing lights suggest that the cyborg’s world is unstable. The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian and completely without innocence. The cyborg’s world is always evolving, it stretches out to infinity. The cyborg’s own body cannot be defined by words made for human organisms, it has no gender, it is inherently nonbinary, flexible, fluid. The cyborg does not care if its world collapses on itself. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden.
Black mechanical arms, attached to her, work around her. She dances, as if orchestrating the machinery, telling it what to do – she isn’t naked anymore, neither is she alone. The animals have joined her; a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines. Lights flicker endlessly, her tumultuous world may never be fixed, peace is unachievable. The cyborg mother becomes lively with the desire to procreate, working her body to the limits of biological possibility. Failed attempts, empty and deformed cyborg bodies litter the floor of her laboratory. The liquid fire from before, the strength of that which had once been biological, mythical, is the fuel with which the cyborg body can produce others. Through the cyborg struggle she becomes autonomous.
Her body is seen replicated in a dark void, dancing with a smile, unbothered by the instability of her world.
As the tune of the song changes, the mother’s creations come to life, the fire, now coming from within her, nurturing them. The machines now work on her, encasing her body in metal and apparatus. Sculpting, immortalizing. Cybernetic Metal. Once again naked, she teaches her creation her dances as the world around them collapses. If they dance long enough, mirror each other long enough, they will become one – just like merging with the mountain, her body merges with the cyborg, shaping it as it reshapes her. Stripped of identity, the “bastard” race teaches about the power of the margins and the importance of a mother.
In and out of the void she appears. Her flexible cyborg body changing clothing, look and sometimes even form. The cyborg mother is caught in a Sisypheanloop, with no death in sight, no mud to return to. Dance, sing, create. The fire of struggle that she was undoubtedly born from will not go out, it is imminent like the fires of eternal damnation. Shackled in this loop she will remain, with no one but herself and her children to carry her legacy, her autonomy. Woman, Cyborg, Mother, Sinner.
Her claim to a life of creation was enabled by her daring to reach out to touch the pelvis in her first state of being. This claim is rendered illegitimate and unnatural by every law of nature, considering that the very essence of human is defined through the cyborg’s exclusion. The cyborg transgression of daring to live allows her to be born, bestows her with autonomy.
Exclusion and Othering is what the marginalized body knows and understands – female, trans, nonbinary, southern, eastern, queer, cyborg. Outsider bodies, who in varying degrees understand what it’s like to live on the boundaries of a norm that is defined by their very exclusion. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other. Othered bodies are removed from innocence, they do not seek unitary identit[ies], they do not seek to return to the Garden of Eden from which they were expelled. To reconfigure and to reconstruct, to build and to destroy. The physical body and natural voice of Arca are reconstructed in cyberspace – machine and organism merge to recompose the boundaries of daily life, allowing her othered body to navigate, define and immortalize itself by the means of Cybernetic Metal. Neither stone nor marble – these, are for gods and undoubtedly, just like Donna J. Haraway, she would rather be a cyborg than a goddess. * /