UPDATE 2/2012: The Transreal book is now available on Amazon.com
Published by Atropos Press in January 2012, The Transreal includes texts written by myself and in collaboration with Elle Mehrmand and transcriptions of panels with Stelarc, Sandy Stone, Ricardo Dominguez, Amy Sara Carroll, Brian Holmes and James Morgan. Zach Blas is the editor of the book. Below is a description of the book.
The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities explores the use of multiple simultaneous realities as a medium in contemporary art. Building on the notion of “trans” from transgender, meaning crossing boundaries of gender, I propose that transreal aesthetics cross the boundaries created by a proliferation of conceptions of reality that occurred as a result of postmodern theory. Building on the notion of experimental affective politics that I developed in my first book Trans Desire/Affective Cyborgs, co-authored with Barbara Fornssler, I claim that an understanding of building and working with multiple realities is essential for artists and political actors to have agency today.
Proposing three operations for dealing with multiple realities, The Transreal discusses artists and art collectives including: Blast Theory, whose alternate reality game “Ulrike and Eamon Compliant” invites users to walk the streets of Venice as the leftist militant Ulrike Meinhoff; mez breeze, whose poems explore anonymous hacktivism through her own literary genre that uses code syntax to perform multiple characters simultaneously; and Reza Negarestani, Ricardo Dominguez and Zach Blas’ whose works invent new fields of technological imaginary, creating their own logics. Through these artists’ work and my own, I demonstrate that the medium of transreal art has broad implications across new media, performance art, e-poetry and emerging literary genres. The book spans a wide range of genres including theoretical analyses of artworks, poetry, source code, technical diagrams, photos of performances and custom made electronics as well as discussions with leading thinkers in the fields of new media and performance art including Stelarc, Rosanne Allucquére Stone and Ricardo Dominguez.
The book includes writings from and about my own transreal performances: Becoming Dragon and collaborations with Elle Mehrmand including Becoming Transreal, technésexual and virus.circus. Becoming Dragon (2008) questions the one-year requirement of “Real Life Experience” that transgender people must fulfill in order to receive Gender Confirmation Surgery, and asks if this could be replaced by one year of ‘Second Life Experience’ to lead to Species Reassignment Surgery. For the performance, I lived for 365 hours immersed in the online 3D environment of Second Life with a head mounted display, only seeing the physical world through a video feed, and wrote software to use a motion capture system to map my movements into Second Life. For technésexual (2009-2010), Elle Mehrmand and myself wore custom made heart rate monitors and temperature sensors while we kissed and undressed in front of a live audience. Simultaneously for an audience in Second Life, our avatars also kissed while the sound of our live heart beats was played for both audiences, pitch shifted according to our body temperatures, creating an organic interface for making music. Becoming Transreal (2010) was performed at the UCLA Freud Playhouse and consisted of a ritual in which I would read a poem and once each poem ended, Elle Mehrmand would use a hand pump to increase the pressure in suction cups attached to my breasts while we were both motion captured by a Vicon motion capture system that moved our avatar’s positions in real time. The performance used slipstream poetry to consider possible futures of nano-bio drug piracy and the intersections of transnational and transgender experiences. virus.circus is an episodic series of performances exploring a speculative world of queer futures of latex sexuality and DIY medicine in resistance to virus hysteria. Code switching between mixed and alternate reality, virus.circus asks how we can use reality as a medium, resonating across a number of modes including public space interventions, performances in museums and galleries and networked performances.
The notion of transreal is informed by the theorist Jack Halberstam who makes “the perhaps overly ambitious claim that there is such a thing as “queer time” and “queer space.”” Expanding on this, one can see the acceptance and embrace of multiple worlds, times and realities as a fundamental characteristic of late postmodernism or post-postmodernism.