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Abjection of the Body & Cyborg Jewelry Design
The examples of jewelry located and examined for the purposes of this paper align with the definitions and ideas of the authors that contextualize the conversation. (Refinery 29, 2012) Notice how both of the models are positioned side by side, which immediately prompts the audience, viewer, or consumer to compare and contrast. Though their precise background are unknown, it is presumed that both models are Caucasian. Both models have short brown hair. The models do not closely resemble each other, yet there are similarities in the thickness of their lips, the subtlety of their cheek bones, and the composition of the product photos. Viewers are meant to draw more similarities between the models than highlight the differences.
Though we presume that one model is male and one model is female, their similarity highlights their androgyny, their lack of gender or the blurring of gender. The authors may refer to this as post gender. With a quick glance, either model could be either gender or both at once because we cannot see their bodies. Confusion or diffusion of gender is implied in the composition of this photo. This may be what the authors refer to when speaking of disruption with regard to stereotypes of the human body.
Haraway saw the coming of the cyborg before the information or digital age officially arrived to the world. Cyborgs are new types of beings, yet they are beings that are predicated on beings that already exist -- humans. There is necessarily both a human element and a technological or machine-like quality that distinguishes cyborgs. Cyborgs were once beings of imagination and of science fiction media, but with some hindsight and perspective now that we are in the 21st century, as Haraway will explain, there were examples of cyborgs before now. Cyborgs now could be users of Bluetooth headsets that were them constantly. Cyborgs of the 21st century could also be people who have lost limbs for various reasons and now have electronic prosthetics.
There was a film titled Surrogates (2009) where the narrative took place in an alternate future where nearly all the humans on Earth were cyborgs. One of the most famous cyborgs that surely was an influence or inspiration to Haraway at the time she composed "The Cyborg Manifesto" was the Terminator and what turned into The Terminator series of films. This was a film where the future of humans was transformation into cyborgs and war between fully robotic beings. Now, in the 21st century, in a world of avatars, punk, post punk, steam punk, and post industrial cultures, cyborgs have a greater presence than they did approximately twenty years ago when Haraway published the manifesto. She defines cyborgs as:
A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. The international women's movements have constructed 'women's experience', as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion. (Haraway, 1991)
A cyborg is a hybrid being. It is a being that represents connection and combination. She describes cyborgs as another lifeform, one that has a reality and a perception similar to how humans function and are positioned within society of the world. She is describing another order of citizen.
Haraway, like other authors, speak of disruption and collapse as liberating. This is a prevalent and significant theme that connects authors such as Haraway and Kristeva with respect to gender, the abject, and cyborgs. The liberation is not restricted to that of the female experience, but also a greater liberation of perspective and consciousness. The disrupts of the social, the engendered, and the embodied that the cyborg brings upon have the potential to push human culture in a more open-minded and more diverse direction where truly pluralistic identities can exist and flourish, just as suggested in an abundance of science fiction literature and media.
Noted sociologists and other social scientists have long since demonstrated how a great deal of human behavior, communication, and perception is heavily predicated on quickly and easily identifying a person's gender. When gender is confused, disrupted, or abnormal, we, in essence, do not know what to do, what to say, or how to act around such people. These moments may be disconcerting, but within the context of these specific authors, they would likely argue that these moments are liberating and expansive. These disruptions of gender and the body make room and make firm the proliferation of genders as well as the consideration that constructs of gender are ineffective and narrow-minded. Cyborg jewelry and other objects that embody the theories of post gender, post humanity, feminism, and abjection expose, disrupt, and potentially abolish concepts such as gender as our narrow conceptions of the human body.
The jewelry here is a good example of cyborg jewelry. (Refinery 29, 2012) The jewelry is noticeable on the faces of the models, but it is not stark or shocking. There is a degree of subtlety to the jewelry. Certainly the jewelry design is one of function and aesthetics. The eye-piece could very well be some sort of optical device intended to enhance or expand the wearer's vision on that side. It could be some kind of interface for a video conferencing device. There are a number of possibilities. The point is that the jewelry needs the human to work and enhances the natural machine like aspects of that human's organ or body part over which the jewelry is placed. The nose jewelry on the female model could very well be an apparatus will assists with breathing. It could additionally be a sort of air filtration system if she is a city dweller in contact with higher concentrations of air-born pollutants from various vehicles and sewers.
The jewelry on both models is intended to be worn for extended use, such as with normative jewelry like earrings or necklaces. The jewelry is functional and machine-like, but it is comfortable enough to wear for long periods. These observations are simply to reinforce and note the cyborg-like traits of the jewelry and the abjection of the body, specifically the face. People who saw the viewers would readily perceive that the wearers of such jewelry/devices are cyborgs -- some kind of post human, post gendered humans. The jewelry demonstrates how disruptions of gender and of the body can come easily with the design and use of jewelry.
An 'oscillation effect' contributes to postmodern aesthetics. The viewer looks, recognizes a style or trope, doubts, does a doubletake, recognizes the citation; and meanings shift and change their reference like shifting perception of perspective in an optical illusion. This effect is, perhaps, particularly exciting because it dices with the credibility of the fetish. In this sense…the contested terrain of the female body. (Mulvey, 1999)
This is certainly the intention and result of this specific photo of the models side by side. The viewers doubletake at the gender confusion between the models and they doubletake at the sight of the jewelry. After a moment, the viewer discerns the sexes of the models and realizes the jewelry is a direct reference to cyborgs and other ways humans blend or externalize their machine qualities. Here the jewelry is a theory in the flesh moment of Mulvey as the oscillation effect is at work with this example of cyborg jewelry. The jewelry then would be postmodern and post gender by theoretical standards set therein.
Feminism is the movement to instate and establish equality in all levels of society and representation for women. Feminism seeks to balance the institutionalized and acculturated subordination and oppression of women around the world and throughout history. Creed in her book (1993) often uses the phrase 'monstrous-feminine,' which will be referenced below. Her definition can be used to consider the meanings of her term in relation to feminism as well as with respect to abjection. She writes:
I have used the term 'monstrous-feminine' as the term 'female monster' implies a simple reversal of 'male monster.' The reasons why the monstrous-feminine horrifies her audience are quite different from the reasons why the male monster horrifies his audience. A new term is needs to specify these differences. As with all other stereotypes of the feminine, from virgin to whore, she is defined in terms of her sexuality. The phrase 'monstrous-feminine' emphasizes the importance of gender in the construction of her monstrosity. (Creed, 1993)
Creed calls the stereotypes of women, of their sexuality and of…[continue]
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