Is my body out of date? The drag of physicality in the digital age

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Elly Clarke


At the 2019 Body of Knowledge Conference at Deakin University, I presented the third episode of performance-lecture series ‘Is My Body Out of Date?’ in collaboration with Melbourne-based artists Bon Mott and Sean Miles. Punctuated by quotes and phrases from a range of theorists, writers and artists including Karen Barad, Caroline Bassett, Laboria Cuboniks, Ian McEwan, Oscar Wilde, Yon Heong Tung, ETA Hoffman, Gilbert Simondon, and my drag character #Sergina, the performance (struck) poses (around) the question of whether, in a world that is increasingly managed and experienced online, our bodies, as our primary mode of interaction, may be beginning to feel out of date. Is our desire for sweaty, messy, fleshy physical co-presence out of whack with the agility, efficiency and value of our algorithms? Performed live at a laptop with Mott and Miles as physical #BackupBodies for my own body that didn’t fly from London for ecological reasons, this physical/digital screenshare performance wove in video documentation from previous #Sergina performances in order to confuse and conflate what was happening now, and what already happened, what was live and what was pre-recorded. Here we played with issues of perception, presence, liveness and the fantasy of the (ex)changeability of identity and ‘drag’ (performance) of physicality within an ever-shifting media present.

What follows is a visual essay constructed out of the digital remnants of the performance: a (trans)script, a screen recording, screenshots and links to media located beyond the template of the text. The visual essay touches on key conference themes such as virtual embodiment, human/computer interaction, temporal coupling and time consciousness, knowledge-transfer and how technology affects the way we move, think and desire. Furthermore, the templates of Zoom video communications, of the laptop screen, of Chrome and the wider digital/physical conference model that hosted, directed (and dictated) the boundaries of our presentation reflect on the influence of design, layout and digit/al choreographies on the shaping and ordering of thought, knowledge and embodiment.

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How to Cite
Clarke, Elly. 2020. “Is My Body Out of Date? The Drag of Physicality in the Digital Age”. idea journal 17 (02):289-325.
text-based research essay