Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #3: Modeling Paranodal Space

 

Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #3: Modeling Paranodal Space
Zach Blas

2016

What might be outside of networks? Today, networks are seemingly everywhere, but they are not just telecommunications and internet infrastructures—they are also mappings of social reality. Networks describe relationships, bodies, identities, ecosystems, capitalism, surveillance, and warfare alike. In the 21st century, networks have ascended as a dominant model for organizing the world, which has hegemonic and normalizing effects. Media theorist Alexander R. Galloway has described this as “reticular pessimism”: “Today, we are trapped in a sort of ‘networked’ or ‘reticular’ pessimism…reticular pessimism claims, in essence, that there is no escape from the fetters of the network…By offering no alternative to the network form, reticular pessimism is deeply cynical because it forecloses any kind of utopian thinking that might entail an alternative to our many pervasive and invasive networks.”[1]

The “paranode” may be such an alternative to the network model. Network scholar Ulises Ali Mejias explains the paranode as “the space that lies beyond the topological and conceptual limits of the node…not conform[ing] to the organizing logic of the network.”[2] Not simply negative, empty, or passive, paranodal space, Mejias argues, is full of political activity and possibility. In fact, paranodes actively shape the very form of networks.

In Blas’ laptop performance, 3D modeling software is used as an opportunity to imagine a world of paranodal spaces. Paranodes are initially liberated from a distributed network diagram, which is a model commonly used to describe the internet. As paranodes lose the “gravitational pull” of the network diagram, they drift and slowly begin to lose the forms to which the network diagram had constricted them. Another world is under formation.

Inspired by Paul Preciado’s Manifesto contrasexual, Blas’ use of the paranode is a reimagining of Preciado’s conception of the dildo, in an effort to forge connections between queer critiques of sexuality and identity with those of the internet and networks. Throughout his manifesto, Preciado encourages experimentation with dildos, as the dildo, for Preciado, undoes the body as a heteronormative unit. Preciado even offers a series of “dildotopia” exercises for activating one’s contrasexuality, such as drawing a dildo onto one’s arm and masturbating it. Continuing this dildotopic mode of thought, in a recent e-flux article, Blas asks, “What are the dildotectonics of the internet? Put differently, if the dildo is a form adequate to exposing the norms and constructions of sexuality, then what is the form adequate to revealing the internet as totality? …just as the dildo’s form is external to the body, perhaps a contra-internet form must be external to the internet—must be something other than a network.”[3] Blas’ video suggests that the paranode is one way to imagine a dildotectonics of the internet.

Throughout Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #3: Modeling Paranodal Space, Joe Meek & The Blue Men’s “I Hear a New World” plays, a song originally released in 1960, as part of a sonic outer space fantasy album. Meek, a pioneering British sound engineer for pop music at the time, was also homosexual and closeted. In 1967, he murdered his landlady and then killed himself. When considering Meek’s life, “I Hear a New World” evokes not only an anticipation and longing to arrive at another world that is “so strange and so real” but also an imaginative desire to escape the harsh oppressions of a very real and all too familiar world that criminalizes queer existence.

This video is the 3rd in a series of “inversion practices.” Taking place within the space of the laptop screen, they speculate and imagine conditions of possibility beyond hegemonic, dominating, and corporatized aspects of internet cultures and politics. The previous two videos are viewable at:

https://vimeo.com/121035772 & https://vimeo.com/121057237

 

Contra-Internet Inversion Practice #3: Modeling Paranodal Space is supported in part by a 2016 Creative Capital award in Emerging Fields.

Contra-Internet will premiere as a solo exhibition at Gasworks in London in September 2017.

 

[1] David M. Barry and Alexander R. Galloway, “A Network is a Network is a Network: Reflections on the Computational and the Societies of Control,” Theory, Culture & Society 33, no. 4 (2016): 7.

[2] Ulises Ali Mejias, Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 153.

[3] Zach Blas, “Contra-Internet,” e-flux #74 (June 2016), www.e-flux.com/journal/contra-internet/.