Documentation of “Arctificial Pandemonium”, exhibition as part of the practice based PhD at the University of Reading, Sept. 2015

1 Oct

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Chapter 5: Manifests and Mirrors (Artwork)


Arctificial Territory

2 Jul


Arctificial Territory


Department of Art

Gudrun Bielz

July 2015



2 Jul

I confirm that this is my own work and the use of all material from other sources has been properly and fully acknowledged.

Gudrun Bielz



Online Publication

2 Jul

Because formatting parameters in this blog are different to formatting systems in desktop publishing, I had to use different typefaces, styles, font sizes, and paragraph formatting. In each chapter of the online publication, footnote numbering starts with the number 1.

I have linked the most relevant statements, persons, and events to their original online sources.

In the written thesis, the photo documentation of the exhibition can be found in Appendix C. In the online publication, photos of Arctificial Pandemonium are at the beginning of the dissertation.

The reader can comment on each chapter. I welcome contributions, ideas, and critique. This PhD is part of an ongoing process of generating knowledge and creating art work.


2 Jul

Table of Contents


I am grateful to my supervisor Dr. Kate Allen for her invaluable support throughout this research. I would also like to thank my former supervisors Dr. Jonathan Dronsfield and Prof. Stephen Buckley for their generous support. I would like to thank Eliza Bonham Carter who encouraged me to commence this research. My special thanks go to Dr. Juliet Steyn who became my supervisor after Dr. Dronsfield left the university.

I am indebted to the philosophers Dr. Timothy Morton and Dr. Dan O’Hara who found time to discuss aspects of my PhD with me. The artist VALIE EXPORT has been a great friend and advertised my new art movement. I would also like to thank Steina Vasulka for her support.

I am grateful for the encouragement by my friends Dr. Daria Pankl, Kim L. Pace, Sylvana Strasser, and Claudia Strauss. I would also like to thank Ralph Engelhard for his support in the past.

I would like to thank the [singularity] email list @ with Dr. Ben Goertzel and Dr. Natasha Vita-More, to name two of its illustrious members, for having accepted me when I started this thesis. My thanks go to Eliezer Yudkowsky who let me post on the Less Wrong blog.

I am grateful for the support by Dr. Peter Harris at the Centre for Advanced Microscopy, University of Reading. I would like to thank Dr. David J. Stent who invited me to participate at his project Digital Hybridity (2011) with D-MARC, University of Derby. I am grateful to Dr. Roger Cook who asked me to participate at the conference Transversalities (2005), University of Reading.

I would like to thank those who have provided me with a stimulating intellectual environment: the Warwick Knowledge Centre with Virtual Futures, Ray Kurzweil (mailing list and group on FB), the SENS Foundation: Dr. Aubrey de Grey, IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies), Zero State with Dr. Amon Twyman and Dirk Bruere, the Singularity Network with Nikola Danaylov, and individuals like Dr. Rachel Armstrong, Dr. Laura Beloff, Luke Robert Mason, Rajat Luthra, Dr. Anders Sandberg, and Todd Huffman, to name a few.

Without dancing Flamenco and to music by Booba, Radiohead, and The Mars Volta, it would have been more difficult to write up my PhD. I needed to shake my limbs as much as my brain. Thanks to these musicians. I am also grateful to the Rambert Dance Company in London for having taught me some fundamentals of modern dance.

No words can express the gratitude for my mother Martha Bielz, née Macknig, who had many talents. She encouraged me to become an artist. Unfortunately, she did not accomplish her dream of becoming a fashion designer because of the outbreak of WWII and because her father was persecuted by Nazi Germany for his political stance.

Table of Contents




2 Jul

Table of Contents


This practice based PhD examines obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychological space, models of consciousness, artwork by selected artists, ideas of posthumanism and transhumanism, immortality and afterlife fantasies, and the philosophical concept of the other (the stranger to ourselves). My thesis and practice posit a new psychological space for art called Arctificial Territory. Arctificial is a neologism: a combination of artificial and arctic.

The parameters of this thesis are set by an exhibition, Arctificial Pandemonium, accompanied by a text derived from theoretical research, literary texts, images, videos, and links to music, all published online. Users can add comments and expand on the thesis itself. The aim of this format is to encourage a creative process that continues to generate material accessible with no end point. Feedback loops (Norbert Wiener), the rhizome (Paul Deleuze and Felix Guattari), and Paul Feyerabend’s concept of non-monistic methods are deployed to describe my methodology and to frame my practice. Artwork, philosophy, literary text, and theoretical theories – all are interlinked.

The form itself apes the interconnectivity of linked systems. Obsessive-compulsive traits are informed by repetitions and rituals, which are covering up fear and chaos. Non-linear methods are not chaotic and not repetitive, so they allow for branching out, feeding back and forward, and communicating in a poly-directional way that leads to Arctificialism, as proven in this thesis.

This work explores the creative potential of obsession, compulsion, and control mixed with ideas of artificial intelligence and immortality. Experiments through video making, research, and writing have led me to invent the term “arctificial” and create Arctificial Territory which in itself is the embodiment of a psychological space.

Arctificial Territory as a space has produced artwork that, over the course of this research, has developed into the idea of an art movement, Arctificialism. Works by VALIE EXPORT, Steina Vasulka, and Park Chan-wook are considered in relation to my own practice; as I argue they inhabit a complex and apparently dysfunctional psychological space that is similar to my idea of an “arctificial” space that demonstrates some obsessive-compulsive traits.

Arctificial Territory is recognised by VALIE EXPORT, who I had invited to inhabit Arctificial Territory and introduced to the concept of Arctificialism. EXPORT’S response was to employ Arctificialism as a means to undertake her dream journey to the Arctic and the Antarctic, as exhibited in my accompanying exhibition.

This thesis thus invents and explores a new artistic psychological space. The creation of the terms Arctificial Territory and Arctificialism gives art such as EXPORT’s and my own a new context and terminology in which to discuss our art practice.



Table of Contents



Table of Contents

2 Jul

Arctificial Territory




     Introduction and Methodology                                                            

           Video No.2, 23’18”


                      Short Interlude: A Tiny Jump into the Future Present

                      Research Question



Contextual Scene: Artwork


           Background: Artwork, Films, and Literature

                        No Empty Space Available

                        Unreliable Perceptions

                               Key Terms

                               Broken Glass

                               Everything Orbits Around Myself

                               I Am a Machine, Not a Human



CHAPTER 1: Feed Us, Please Feed Us – We Need You


             Fun Fair: A Trip to Post- and Transhuman Stuff

                         Never the Same Again

                         Background Radiation: Entering the World

                         of Arctificial Territory

                         Neither One nor the Other

                         Order, Order

                         Sweeter than Chocolate

            Something So Alien that It Hurts

                        The Foreigner Within Us

                        Strangers to Ourselves

                        Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Obsessive

                        of All

                        The Other and the Same

              Arctificial Otherness: Summary

                        Video No. 9, 49”

CHAPTER 2: In Control – Out of Control


            Video No. 1, 1’07”

            Control Fields

            Follow Me, I Show You Some Secrets

                        Once More: In Control – Out of Control

                        First Hand Account

                        It Is Lonely Out There

            We are Allergic: OC and Arctificial

                        More, More, More: More About OC and Machines

                        Overload: Survival Strategies

                        OCAL, OCAL, Repeat OCAL: Projections

                        Angst:  What Is OCAL Afraid of?

                        Facts or Fiction: A Pathological Species


                        Paradox: In and Out of the Control Rollercoaster

                        Primary Obsessive Slowness: The Atomic Clock and Attoworld

                        Peep, Peep:  Peep Show

            Danger: Don’t Press This Button

CHAPTER 3: Please, Don’t Render Me Unconscious


            Consciousness Is Stuff

                       Short Journey: The Jungle of Hypotheses

                       An Ideal Supposition for OCAL


                       Video No. 4, 2’54”

                       Finale 1: Zombie, Zombie

                       Finale 2: The Twins: Consciousness & Unconsciousness

            Arctificial Flavours

Video No. 3, 2’52”

            Another Place in Another Narrative: Emotions

                       Throwing Emotions like Throwing Tantrums

                                  The Robot’s Dilemma

                                   Hungry, Hungry

                                  Cry Baby Cry: Arctificial Emotion

                                  Fictional Facts or Factual Fiction

                                  Empathy Rollercoaster                             

CHAPTER 4: Dream Away Baby, Your Head Is Rolling


           Too Much Afterlife

                       Video No. 6, 1’12”


                                  Video No. 7, 1’12”

                                   Impure Bodies and Pure Souls

                                   Video No. 10, 1’41”

                       Stuck in Loops

                                   Other Faces of OCAL

                                   Immortality Delayed

                       Heavenly Bodies: The True Afterlife Chapter

                                   Don’t Forget, Do Forget: Immortal Arctificiality

                                   Aftermath: No End in Sight

                                   Video No. 8, 2’28”

CHAPTER 5: Manifests and Mirrors

            Video No. 5, 2’15”


            Merging Duchamp-land with Turing-land

            The OCAL Manifesto

            Mirroring My Videos: If One Can See Reflection as a Feedback Loop

                        Video No. 11, 3’02”

                        Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

                        Video No. 12, 40″


            Video No. 13, 1’02”


            Pathways to Arctificial Territory


APPENDIX A: AI Bots Confess: I Am OC

APPENDIX B: Additional Artwork and Blogs

Bibliography and Other Sources


            Filmography and Videography

            Conference Presentations and Exhibitions

            Conferences, Talks, and Exhibitions Attended

            Artwork and Music


            Art & Science Organisations



Illustration Index

Illustration 1: Video still, Gudrun Bielz. The Arctificial Obsessive

            Compulsive Project: An Introduction (2007)

Illustration 2: Gudrun Bielz, A strategy for an apparently simple life –

            OCAL (2011), Arctificiality at WordPress, screenshot

Illustration 3: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Grauer Raum mit Blau (1987)

Illustration 4: Installation view, Gudrun Bielz, Untitled 1 (1992)

Illustration 5: Installation view, Gudrun Bielz, No Empty Space Available?


Illustration 6: Film still 1, VALIE EXPORT, Invisible Adversaries (1976),


Illustration 7: Film still 2, VALIE EXPORT, Invisible Adversaries (1976),


Illustration 8: Film still 3, VALIE EXPORT, Invisible Adversaries (1976),


Illustration 9: Installation view, Steina Vasulka, ALLVISION (1976)

Illustration 10: Installation view, Steina Vasulka, Machine Vision (1978)

Illustration 11: Film still 1, Park Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But

           That’s OK (2008)

Illustration 12: Film still 2, Park Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But

           That’s OK (2008)

Illustration 13: Film still 3, Park Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But

           That’s OK (2008)

Illustration 14: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, “Antificial” Obsessive

           Compulsive Intelligence: Intergalactic Intelligence (2010)

Illustration 15: Video still 1, Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess (2005)

Illustration 16: AI Bots Confess: I am OC, Conversation between

Gudrun Bielz and Dante bot (2005), screenshot

Illustration 17: Video still 2, Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess (2005)

Illustration 18: Video still 3, Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess (2005)

Illustration 19: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial

            Fish Life: A Sub-species of OCAL (2009)

Illustration 20: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Microscopic Gold (2008)

Illustration 21: Cynthya Breazeal, Kismet (2000), MIT, robotic head, photo

Illustration 22: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, An Obsessive Rose is an Obsessive

            Rose: Artificial Roses without Thorns (2010)

Illustration 23: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Nail of a Person with OCD:

            Artificial Nail of an OC Intelligence Unit (2010)

Illustration 24: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, All the Unhappiness about this OCD

            Chip Arctic-sim City Stuff: AI Chip Conquering the Universe (2010)

Illustration 25: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, This Looks like OCAL: Collective

            Consciousness (2010)

Illustration 26: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, HAIR: Hair of a Person with

            OCD (2010)

Illustration 27: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Rose and Ant: The Unified

            Video (2010)

Illustration 28: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, VALIE EXPORT Advertises

            Arctificialism (2015)

Illustration 29: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, VALIE EXPORT Applies

            Arctificialism (2015)



2 Jul

Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources


Affective Computing

Allows for the future mass production of emotional robots or AGI (artificial general intelligence) that might replace humans as carers, emotional partners, and pets.

AGI (Artificial General Intelligence)

Artificial intelligence that is as intelligent as or exceeds human intelligence. This is the dream of AGI creators who want to enslave themselves or rather upload their minds into superhuman hybrid “life”. On a more practical level, it is about the production of hybrid intelligent machinic life that can support or destroy humans. This includes AGI for warfare.

AI Bot, Chatbot or Chatterbot

Is a computer programme that attempts to hold a conversation with biological persons and fails to keep to a logical exchange most of the time, though it is rather amusing to talk to a chatbot. It is very simple AI.

AL – Artificial Life

Artificial or computer systems that simulate biological life


Arctificial is a neologism made up of artificial, as something that is a man-made copy of something natural, and arctic, which means from the North Pole, bleak and very cold. The other definition of artificial as contrived or affected comes into play, too. Arctificial is configured emotionally.


Arctificialism is a new -ism in art that is created by using means of arctificial production and making work in Arctificial Territory. It allows artists and others to contextualise their work and theories.

Arctificial Territory

Arctificial Territory is a specific artistic psychological space, developed as a science fiction scenario for a transhuman world apparently lacking emotional warmth, touch (embodiment), and the idea of the other. This is a cyclical and self-referential space guided by compulsions and obsessional thoughts, repetitive patterns, and laborious attempts to include the other in this world. It is a place defined by arctic cold and artificial scenarios. This arctificial space – a space populated by man-made copies (OCAL) of natural life (an object), which in itself is part of nature (an object that is not natural) – forms a sub-zero territory, which is different to human emotional and empathic space, hence actually a posthuman space. It is a cold and contrived space and an unfriendly habitat for humans, though created by humans. It is the perfect space for OCAL that does not perceive it as cold and emotionless. Ultimately, it is emotive space with small gestures, different feelings, fallibility as driving force, and a form of altruism that is defined by the other and how OCAL accepts the other to itself (the foreigner within itself).

Algorithmic Computing

Algorithm is a form of logical code written into a computer programme, software.

Control Field

Control field is a field in a “protocol data unit” in computing. It “contains data interpreted by the receiving destination logical-link controller” (ITS 1996).


A life form, organism that is a mixture of biological and synthetic parts, a hybrid.

OC (Obsessive-Compulsive)

Defines obsessional thoughts and compulsive behaviour.

OCAL (Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life)

OCAL is arctificial life that has obsessive-compulsive traits. OCAL needs these characteristics to be more accommodating and diverse, though they imply repetition and rigidity.


Can be seen as antihumanism or a theory beyond concepts of humanism. Posthuman is a state where humanity has ceased to exist or where humanity, nature, and technology have merged, leaving humankind behind.

Psychological Space

Psychological space is any actual or virtual space that is defined by historical, societal, artistic, philosophical, scientific, or personal events. It is a space that itself acts as a psychological narrative, but it is also a place filled with projections, wishes, fantasies, and imaginations by its users, visitors, or inhabitants. It is a transitional space. It can be actual and virtual space. It is also space that creates strong emotions and reactions because of its architecture or other physical aspects.


Copies, similar or alike to originals, an image or representation. In the case of OCAL these copies are slightly different, as every repetitive motion and every repetitive cloning produce difference in a nano-space and a space in between, in the middle of things.


The theory that humans can evolve physically and mentally by any means possible, especially technological and engineered biological ones. Humans are modified and become more endurable if not immortal. Transhuman can be seen as a transitional state to posthuman.


Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources



Introduction and Methodology

2 Jul

Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources



Illustration 1: Video still, Gudrun Bielz. The Arctificial Obsessive-Compulsive Project:

An Introduction (2007)

Video No. 2, 23’18”

Gudrun Bielz, The Arctificial Obsessive-Compulsive Project: An Introduction (2007), electronic PhD lecture given at the University of Reading, Department of Art.[1]


“I would like the work to be non-work. … It is my main concern to go beyond what I know and what I can know. The formal principles are understandable and understood. It is the unknown quantity from which and where I want to go. As a thing, an object, it accedes to its non-logical self. It is something, it is nothing” (Hesse 1968, in: Stiles and Selz 1996, p.594).

The artist Eva Hesse describes her journey from unknown into unknown territory. Her primary interest is “to go beyond what I know and what I can know.” This is also my concern. By undertaking this research, I have started from and entered new territory and literally developed the concept for a new territory.

My thesis both invents and examines what I have come to understand as a new psychological space. My own artwork deals with artistic and scientific concepts and cross-disciplinarity. A doctoral thesis is a useful format for researching my approach to practice and theory within the context of psychological space. The form itself has helped me to understand, analyse, and contextualise how I collect, learn, research and disseminate information, interconnect, produce, communicate, and play (describe, fill, enhance, manipulate, create) an artistic space. During this research I developed the concept of Arctificial Territory that was originally conceived as the Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Project.

Arctificial is a neologism that combines arctic and artificial. The former refers to arctic cold, the act of freezing one’s emotions as a form of self-defence or an inability to access or even have these emotions, and the latter to not natural.

I created the term “arctificial” to try to describe my understanding of the growth of an increasingly emotionally cold attitude in our world, which echoed some of the coping strategies of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and which I linked to technological developments such as artificial life, specifically ideas of us developing a transhuman or superhuman.

Our emotions are often dulled through media overexposure, the anonymity of social media, lack of political engagement, and the dominance of screen-based technology over our lives. I notice that we often seem to display a type of emotional shut down, where we hibernate emotionally, protecting ourselves and ignoring or distancing ourselves from problems concerning refugees, disabled people, the unemployed, mental health, etc. if we are not directly affected.

I began to describe this attitude as arctificial. This state has elements of what I recognise as a coping strategy for people who have OCD, where we can shutdown, turn inwards, detach or use repetition, counting, etc. to cope with a world we may feel threatened by or that we cannot control.

This behaviour to gain control was also something I recognised in machines and the logic of programmes we design to make computers work effectively. We employ this same logic to make machines work better than humans, but we cannot programme the computer to “feel” or respond with emotions like humans (yet).

Arctificial is a complex set of thoughts frozen into one word. It goes beyond the obvious mix of arctic and artificial to try to discover a nuanced understanding of problematic attitudes and traits we use to survive with OCD or as a society in an era that is defined by war, economic greed, and technological developments.

Arctificial encompasses the negative coldness of society, but it also contains some warmth because within this frozen existence there is life. Arctificial is the recognition of something creative and powerful if only it could be recognised and harnessed. As in arctic temperatures, deep beneath the ice there are life forms, and there might even be empathic existence. All is not lost. This perceived strong disconnection from human empathy made me think of a new term for the epoch we live in. Arctificial looks to the future and contemplates when we finally create a transhuman or superhuman that could potentially make the human extinct. It may exist as perfection, but is that possible or desirable without our human warmth, irrationality, chaos, and fallibility? Arctificial sums up some of (but not only) these thoughts.

So I set out to explore arctificial scenarios, devising Arctificial Territory and the human, emotional, and erroneous warm qualities of the arctic (cold) and the artificial.

Arctificial Territory investigates and creatively explores: obsessive-compulsive disorder; psychological space; selected works by VALIE EXPORT, Steina Vasulka, and Park Chan-wook; a selection of my own artwork; concepts of future (trans- and posthuman) life by Ray Kurzweil, Steve Fuller, and others; models of consciousness; immortality and afterlife fantasies based on Hans Moravec‘s book, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (2000); and the philosophical, the idea of the other as “the stranger to ourselves” (Julia Kristeva, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Lacan) and Emmanuel Levinas’ “the Other in the Same”.

I have chosen non-linear methods to underline my research objective that literary and theoretical texts, images, videos, the interactive online publication, the printed text, and the exhibition, Arctificial Pandemonium, are equally important and interlinked within my research. The key topics are discussed in separate chapters but perhaps inevitably come up in each of the chapters as they all are interwoven. I discuss this approach further in “Methodology”.

I have carefully selected the titles in this thesis. They describe literary or metaphorically the contents of each chapter and subchapter. I was brought up with French and German philosophy with its often very inventive and emotive yet precise and explanatory titling. This is part of my education and culture that surfaces in Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life (OCAL). The titling both expresses OCAL’s state of mind and consolidates the topics in the following chapters and sections.

During the research process, a little voice, the voice of OCAL, an arctificial being and inhabitant of Arctificial Territory, has emerged and wanted to establish itself. This voice needs its own space. For the written manifestation of this voice, I use a different typeface (online: colour) in order to demonstrate its “otherness” in the text. This hybrid voice is also expressed in videos that are shown in my final exhibition. It appears interspersed in parts of this thesis and also through integrating videos and texts, theoretical research, and the expression of a hybrid inhabitant on the WordPress blog

Of great help to clarify some of my ideas were conversations with the philosophers Timothy Morton and Dan O’Hara, with Zero State (closed Facebook [FB] group), with members of the [singularity] email list @ (Ben Goertzel, Natasha Vita-More et al.) and The SENS Foundation: Aubrey de Grey (FB group), and in blogs on IEET (Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies) and other blogs[2]. Through these conversations I learned about ethical aspects of future life, developments in AGI, research on ageing, and concepts of immortality. With Morton and O’Hara I gained insight into aspects of personality disorders in the context of my research about OCD and psychological space.

The Austrian writer Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, The Panther, describes the blurred vision that is caused through repetitive motion and the many bars that cover up a world that seems to have vanished. Working on this thesis alerted me to the particular mood invoked by this poem. The following verse is a metaphor for the artistic research process. Sometimes one can only see the bars and forget that there is a world behind them, a world to be explored that is bigger than immediate perception would allow for:

” His vision, from the constantly passing bars,

has grown so weary that it cannot hold

anything else. It seems to him there are

a thousand bars, and behind the bars no world.” (Rilke, 1997, verse 1).

Repetitive movements can be part of OCD. People create their own bars or are put behind bars like the panther in the poem. Not seeing what happens beyond bars, they move in circles and perceive and experience borders, limits, compulsions, obsessions, passions, learned behaviour, self-limiting fear, prescribed instructions and methods. While engaged in the research process, I sometimes felt like behind bars. I immersed myself in the research work, limiting myself to the topics but paradoxically also opening up to the world within. Not to become imprisoned in this world, I needed to do stuff that primarily seemed irrelevant to this thesis. I outline this in the following paragraph.

Throughout the research process I listened to music by Radiohead, Muse, The Mars Volta, and Booba, which made me dance as well as think about the emotional aspects of my art. This music also inhabits a psychological space. The French rapper Booba with his bad boy image has kept me sane. He uses repetition in text and tunes. Working on this thesis was made easier by listening and dancing to his music, not really understanding most of the texts. I also danced to Radiohead and their often dark and mystical music as well as to The Mars Volta’s mathematical psychic rock music, especially to “Asilos Magdalena”. This song is deeply romantic. Radiohead’s music refers to computational worlds and uses repetitive structures. Listening and dancing to this music worked for me as an antidote to the world of obsessive-compulsive life.

Short Interlude: A Tiny Jump into the Future Present

“It is no wonder that industrial capitalism has turned the earth into a dangerous desert, it does not really care, what comes through the factory door as long as it does generate more capital. Do we want to sustain a world based on a philosophy of grey goo?” (Morton 2010a)

Morton argues that we live in a world defined by a philosophy of catastrophic thinking. Grey goo is a metaphor for a nanotechnological Armageddon. His grey goo turns the earth (and life on it) into a desert, a harsh and unfriendly place. In the “philosophy of grey goo”, life has to adapt to the process of industrial capitalism that has turned into an autonomous dangerous machine.

Art and artists have become important players but also commodities in this bubble of science, economy, spirituality, and apocalyptic worldviews. Artists are allowed to be playful. They can throw a chair into space and see what happens to it in a non-gravity environment.[3] They can go to the Antarctic and record the world before the big ice melt[4]. They can create the term “useless technology”, as Steve Kurtz[5] calls technology that has been developed for bio warfare. They can become martyrs[6] in a mad world full of conspiracy theories and relentless spy stories. They can invent terms and create “pseudo-scientific” artistic research like Arctificial Territory that is populated by OCAL. Like the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Kristeva, Lacan, and others, they are allowed to use scientific terms, removed from their original context, and assemble them into a cascade of new significance. This is called recontextualising.

A few scientists believe that scientific terms should be strictly used within scientific settings. Even if the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins[7] (2003a) and the scientists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont (2003) do not like this reallocating and reassembling of scientific terminology, I believe that – by recontextualising scientific terms – one recreates worlds that have become alienated, and one recycles “verbal garbage” to construct new fantastic realities. Following a circular structure, one can also produce new narratives and recontextualise everything. Dawkins published examples like the one below by Felix Guattari in “Postmodernism Disrobed” (2003a):

“The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously” (Guattari 1995, p.50).

Clearly Dawkins does not value the text and refers to Guattari as “one of many fashionable French ‘intellectuals’” (Dawkins 2003a, p.47). He describes thinkers such as Guattari as “intellectual impostors with nothing to say” (2003a, p.47). However, against Dawkins I suggest that Guattari’s text has a poetic quality and creates new meaning. It resembles auto-poetry.[8] I do not agree with Dawkins’ attitude that scientific terms should only be used in strictly scientific contexts. I certainly will commit the crime of using scientific terms as metaphors in strictly non-scientific contexts within this thesis. This helps to emphasise the interconnectivity of terms and meanings, their flexibility in interpretation and contextual use, and allows for querying strictly defined terminology. The appropriation of these terms supports the creation of new connotations within this research.

The position of art and artist within the field of new technologies and science is prevalent throughout the whole project as I am a contemporary artist creating a PhD. Some of my videos were produced with the technical support of the Centre for Advanced Microscopy at the University of Reading. I am aware of Stephen Wilson’s (1996) statements about the artist as researcher and about various events within the sci-art sector (Wilson 2009)[9] that have created a new specialist form of artist, a hybrid, neither artist nor scientist, best described as hybrid artist; for instance, Eduardo Kac with his transgenic art and artists who work with or are funded by organisations like the Wellcome Trust and The Arts Catalyst. These hybrid artists have established themselves in institutions like MIT, ZKM, V2_[10], and others. All have become special agents in a technocratic world that outlines our future in posthuman or transhuman terms. Specialisation might be a reaction to information overflow in a seemingly fragmented world. Special agents and artists like Etoy[11], Stelarc[12] and Laura Beloff[13] have brought new significance to the artistic world. Stephen Wilson differentiates art and science from art and technology. I believe that this distinction applies especially to media art in the 1980s.[14]

“In the contemporary world, however, the relationship has become more complex with new technologies opening up unprecedented areas of scientific inquiry and science providing many ideas for new technologies. Artists have been much more involved with technology than science” (Wilson 2000).

Wilson’s statement brings in a common denominator, technology. Both science and art rely on new technology. This connects both disciplines and allows for a blurring. Art and science are interlinked and less alienated. Science fiction is another link between both subjects because fiction feeds into facts and facts can turn out as fictional.

Arctificial Territory is informed by the “dictate of technology”, the idea of a technological world where humans and machines are fused together in either superhuman or disembodied non-human futuristic life models. Scientific hypotheses, often displayed as facts, can be great fictional inventions that lead us into otherworldly places. Artistic models, often displayed as fiction, can be factual events that invent new realities. The boundaries are blurred. Arctificial Territory, however, is a space for art.

The exhibition, Arctificial Pandemonium[15], which is part of this PhD, consists of videos that can also be found within the written part (with links to Vimeo[16]) and in the online publication. I take images of an ant, the fingernail of an OC person, hair that actually is a feather, and a computer chip with an atomic microscope and create arctificial narratives with videos and computer generated voices.

In the research text OCAL deliberates over the research, reflecting the findings and trying to form its own identity. For OCAL’s expressions I use a different typeface in the printed thesis and a different colour in the online publication. This distinguishes visually between my voice and my conclusions and the emancipating voice of OCAL. It also allows for dissemination between and the fusion of creative and research text.

In this thesis I examine if there is a new and different psychological space for art, called Arctificial Territory, seemingly devoid of emotional space though not devoid of empathy. Whoever recognises that he or she can exist and work in this space belongs to a new hybrid artistic movement, I have called Arctificialism.

I asked the artist VALIE EXPORT how she might position herself within Arctificialism and produced a short video with her statement. This video is listed at the end of this thesis and is shown in the exhibition as part of my research.

Overall, this thesis is a work of science (artistic) fiction that feeds off science facts and fictions, artists’ works and philosophies. Some of the ideas might become factual in the near future or float in between fact and fiction with blurred boundaries, staying in this uncertainty until a new paradigm shift.[17]

Science creates fictions that are sold to us as real. Science is a form of art. It creates and mythologises. It imagines, and it tries to prove realities that are fictional and bound to our physicality and our dreams, to locations and environments, to conditions and mental states. Science facts create new fictions, and science fictions create new facts.

Research Question

My research proposes a new psychological artistic space which encompasses theories of consciousness, computing, OCD, afterlife fantasies, and philosophical and futuristic thoughts.

Ideas of this space are developed through my artwork, including a fictional life form in my text, and by the recognition by artists of its relevance to them.

I question whether this space begins to foster an art movement, a new -ism, which places and contextualises artists’ works, dreams, emotions, and thoughts.


Illustration 2: Gudrun Bielz, A strategy for an apparently simple life – OCAL (2011), Arctificiality at WordPress, screenshot


“A plateau is always in the middle, not at the beginning or the end. A rhizome is made of plateaus” (Deleuze and Guattari 2004, p.24).

This practice-based thesis concerns the creation of a new psychological space and consists of an exhibition and a text of theoretical research, literary works, images, videos, and links to music, also published as a webpage with hyperlinks. Users can add comments, ideas, and criticism. The aim is to inspire a creative process that continues to produce ideas, theories, texts, and visuals, accessible with no end point.

Non-linear methods, such as feedback loops and the rhizome, describe and inform my methodology. Everything is interconnected in a branch-like way, and information is fed back, hence creating new branches and information. Philosophy, artwork, literary text, and theoretical research – all are interwoven.

I introduce a quasi-circular or spiral structure into texts, videos, and other projects in this practice-based dissertation. This structure derives from the philosopher and mathematician Norbert Wiener’s idea of feedback loops describing the very nature of cybernetic systems discussed in his book, Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, first published in 1948 (1965, pp.95-115). Wiener shows that “information fed back to the control center tends to oppose the departure of the controlled from the controlling quantity, but it may depend in widely different ways on this departure” (Wiener 1965, p.97).

Everything is interconnected and fed back from one source to another. This is a truly non-linear system, though it implies some form of control function, as feedback information triggers an action that is connected to another point, consequently informing or initiating a new activity.

Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome theory has similarities to Wiener’s feedback loops as well as to interconnective structures that are the essence of computer applications and the dissemination of information in systems and the WWW. “A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things” (Deleuze and Guattari 2004, p.25). I first came across this quote in Sadie Plant’s book, Zeros + Ones (1998), which led me to read Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (2004). Here the authors introduce the rhizome with its branching out and interrelating, non-linear ways that define rhizomatic structures.

“A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles” (Deleuze and Guattari 2004, p.8).

This assertion highlights ongoing interactions between processes of order, the creation of meaning and art, science, and society.

In my PhD I create new meaning by applying rhizomatic connectivity. Due to the nature of my research, the structure of my thesis has naturally become an interconnection between text, videos, blogs, research by other people, and questions asked to and by scientists and philosophers. As this is a dissertation, I have had to bring in a starting point in the form of an introduction as well as a finishing line in the form of a conclusion, but I also point out that there is no end to this research, only many new beginnings (questions). This creates a tension in my text between the demands of a PhD and the project itself informed by the rhizome. A skeleton with introduction, contextual settings, 5 chapters, and conclusion complies with a certain linearity that is broken through the correlation between texts and videos, between OCAL’s voice and theoretical survey.

In the sense of the rhizome, though, the research is always in the middle, not in the middle as the average but in the middle of a process, “the middle of things”, the middle of thoughts. It is always in between (Deleuze and Guattari 2004, p.25). I see the middle in Deleuze and Guattari’s sense as a process that never starts and finishes but is always in between questions and answers and constantly evolving. Even as one reads the findings, one creates one’s own fictional or information space additional to the conclusions of the researcher. The answers are a step, part of bigger processes that are part of even bigger processes; in a way, research processes are Russian doll systems. Research results can only be a stop in this middle, a series of punctuations in this process called “the middle of things”.

The process resembles an anarchistic methodology that does not exclude a method, as in the understanding of Paul Feyerabend[18] in Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (2002):

“Science is an essentially anarchistic enterprise: theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian and more likely to encourage progress than its law-and-order alternatives” (Feyerabend 2002, p.9).

Feyerabend claims that only anarchistic methods (or “no methods” that also are methods) can provide something new and other than rationalism in knowledge (science) theory. “Theoretical anarchism is more humanitarian” means that theories should contradict bureaucratic machine structures, and “likely to encourage progress than its law and order alternatives” shows that Feyerabend does not believe in strictly rigorous linear methods. He maintains that he has written his book (“essay”) to demonstrate that “anarchism, while perhaps not the most attractive political philosophy, is certainly excellent medicine for epistemology” (2002, p.9). Feyerabend studied Dadaism and was influenced by what he called its style “adapted to the expression of thought as well as of emotion” (2002, p.265). He brings emotion into the scientific philosophical discourse that often emphasises rationality (thought) and dismisses irrational (emotional) processes.

Certainly his studies in theatre, the arts, astronomy and physics, culture and philosophy have informed his theory of methods, implying that a diverse and pluralistic system of methods (also allowing for emotions) rather than strictly empirical (rational) methods will create new knowledge.

Feyerabend is truly interdisciplinary. After WWII he wrote theatre plays and met Berthold Brecht. Later he studied physics and philosophy. Feyerabend was a philosopher of science; indeed, he was an artist and scientist, a philosopher, and a thinker of the new. His critique of methodologies in science does not exclude methodology or a method but refers to an anarchistic and artistic DADA-like approach. Such methodologies with their uncertainty and circumvention of empiricism can be found in: art theory and production, definitely the DADA movement, revolutionary developments, and quantum physics that defies empirical or asks for semi-empirical methods due to the nature of its unpredictability.

In his online lectures, the physicist and Stanford professor Leonard Susskind (2008) remarks that classical physics, the pre-modern physics of the 19th century, is all about determinism (certainty) while modern (quantum) physics refers to indeterminism and unpredictability (uncertainty). This signifies non-linear methodologies and structures that also characterise my way of thinking, making, researching, associating, and communicating.

Repetitions and rituals that are disguising fear and chaos inform obsessive-compulsive traits. Obsessive-compulsive can be seen as monistic, but it is only a ritual that conceals the chaos hidden behind these structures. Non-linear methods are not chaotic and not repetitive, so they allow for branching out, feeding back and forward, and communicating in a polydirectional way.

As an artist who works through interdisciplinarity, particularly an artist who writes a PhD, I deem a non-linear methodology as a necessity. Knowledge, various forms of art production, different disciplines flow into the research, form a network of information and new knowledge, allow connections of media and text, delink and link, and form new branches. As an artist I work like a fluid yet dense entity, digesting information, branching out to the other (new information, audiences, artists, other artwork), inhaling some of this and creating new connections, ideas, and works. In this PhD I also investigate how I work as a scholar and an artist. The artist Gudrun Bielz and the researcher Bielz work in similar ways. To expose this I have chosen concepts by Feyerabend, Wiener’s feedback loops, and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome for my methodology.

The rhizome in A Thousand Plateaus (2004) is a non-hierarchical and, in the sense of Feyerabend, anarchistic idea. It has no beginning and no end, it has no centre, and it is a pluralistic and networked model, a non-linear system. Rhizome, no method as a method (anarchistic or rhizome-like), and Wiener’s feedback loops are related structures.

Like Feyerabend I believe that methods cannot be monistic; they have to be non-linear and complex. So if a research method can be relativist and perhaps dissident, opening up the questions to invite further queries and allowing for comments and other contributions – an ever evolving process – then I will demonstrate this in this practice-based research.


The reader, the viewer, is guided through Arctificial Territory and ideas and models that have influenced this new space. Theories of consciousness, concepts of affective computing, definitions of OCD, afterlife fantasies, and philosophical thoughts are intermixed with OCAL’s own narrative (“We are OCAL and compulsively erroneous in text and life.”) that helps to create Arctificial Territory.

Some of this is speculative, some is erroneous, some might be truthful for a moment or for longer, some might hide truths, some is fiction, some science fiction, and some is factual.

Links and screenshots to blogs with scientists and philosophers can be found in Appendix B, some of these are active links within the electronically published thesis. I have danced to music and put these links into the chapters, so the reader can dance to this music, too. Joggling words out of my mind needs the shaking of limbs. This thesis needs embodiment and embodied action. Please link and listen to the music[19], look at the videos and blogs, and click on links where indicated. Please take the connection speed of your server into account when you are connecting to my thesis and the embedded links.

Read each chapter separately (by clicking on each chapter title in the online version) to make use of the footnote links. This dissertation is about Arctificial Territory in the making. The process happens in front of your eyes. By reading and looking you are making this new life possible.


Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources

[1] All videos are discussed in “Chapter 5: Manifests and Mirrors (Artwork)”.

[2] These conversations can be found in Appendix B.

[3] Simon Faithfull, Escape Vehicle No 6, a project from earth into empty space, supported by The Arts Catalyst (Faithful 2004).

[4] Simon Faithfull, Ice Blink, a project in Antarctica, supported by The Arts Catalyst (Faithful 2004-06).

[5] Founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble. Founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble. There is a photo about the project Useless Technology (1994) in “Posters, pamphlets and artists books” on the webpage:

[6] Kurtz was originally under investigation under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 (USA). The charges were downgraded to “mail fraud” and “wire fraud”. In 2008 Kurz was cleared of all charges. In 2004 Buffalo police were convinced that Petri dishes and monitoring material for his art works were used for terrorist purposes (Critical Art Ensemble: Defense Fund 2009).

[7] Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene examines our biological, genetic disposition of egotism and altruism. Dawkins argues that “we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes” (1989, p.2). I see Dawkins as a purist, who believes that scientific language should not be misappropriated, ignoring that even scientific terms are inventions and approximations and often not that linear and clear within strictly scientific contexts. Moravec discusses Dawkins’ concepts of biological life in his book, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (2000). I examine Moravec’s theories of immortal life in Chapter 4.

[8] Auto-poetry is computer-mediated and computer-generated poetry.

[9] There is extensive information about art projects and art as research on Wilson’s web site. Wilson (2009) has used his web site as research background for his books Information Arts (2002) and Art, +Science Now (2010).

[10] There are links to these art and science organisations as well as to artists in “Bibliography and Other Sources” at the end of this thesis.

[11] Etoy is a group of Swiss artists who create corporate sculptures. The American internet toy retailer eToys took them to court (because of copyright issues regarding the brand) but had to drop the case (Pinsent Masons 2000).

[12] Stelarc is a performance artist, best known for interfering with his body. He is a master of artistic body-enhancement.

[13] Laura Beloff is an artist who works with wearable technology and was a PhD student at the Planetarium Collegium, Plymouth University.

[14] The Austrian artist Franz Xaver interviewed me for the art and media magazine Die Versorgerin (2011) about my position as a media artist in the 1980s and my artistic development since then. I talked about my journey from using new technologies in the 80s (as a media artist) to becoming an artist who works with different media and interdisciplinarity, a hybrid artist.

[15] The exhibition, Arctificial Stuff (2015), at Schauraum, MuseumsQuartier Vienna, is a preview to this installation.

[16] My videos are on Vimeo:

[17] “Paradigm shift” is a scientific revolution, the radical change of a worldview, caused by eminent scientific developments. The philosopher Thomas Kuhn created the term and discussed paradigms and scientific revolutions in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1996).

[18] Feyerabend was an American philosopher of science and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was born In Vienna, Austria.

[19]For additional reading click the following link: (Bielz 2011c).




Contextual Scene: Artwork

2 Jul

Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources



In this part of the thesis, I present and discuss a selection of installations and films that have influenced my own work with reference to defining and creating psychological space. I also explore how some of my installations inhabit this psychological space and set the foundation for Arctificial Territory. Works by EXPORT, Chan-wook, and Vasulka are examined in their relation to certain psychological conditions like schizophrenia, delusional disorder, etc. These works can be seen as forerunners to Arctificialism, pointing to new conceptions for Arctificial Territory with its seemingly obsessional and compulsive elements.

Background: Artwork, Films, and Literature

“Your PhD summary reminds me of the original cybernetics conferences in their emphasis on psychology and mathematics/engineering. Gregory Bateson’s notion of the double bind came out of a conversation he had with Norbert Wiener about how to make a computer schizophrenic, …” (O’Hara 2011).[1]

O’Hara associates my research with Gregory Bateson’s “notion of the double bind”[2], a form of feedback loop, and the idea of “making a computer schizophrenic”. This statement has affirmed my survey of artistic works in relation to psychological disorders.

My own artwork, especially a selection of installations from 1991 until present that deals with psychological and emotional space, has brought me to this research. In this chapter I discuss selected works from 1991 – 2005. The films, Invisible Adversaries (1976) by EXPORT, Sleeper (1973) by Woody Allen, Blade Runner (1982) and Alien (1979) by Ridley Scott, Alphaville (1965) by Jean Luc Godard, and I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2008) by Chan-wook, have influenced my work and this research. I examine EXPORT’s and Chan-wook’s films as well as Vasulka’s installations, Machine Vision (1978) and ALLVISION (1976), in more detail in this chapter.

Godard’s Alphaville with its robotic women, who are remote-controlled and act like zombies, has certainly made me think about obsessive-compulsive and repetitive life. Sleeper by Allen is a comedy that shows the confusion of a person who wakes up from a long artificially induced sleep. He comes back into a different society that is populated by modified and enhanced humans – like those outlined in transhuman scenarios such as Kurzweil’s singularity[3] or Vita-More’s “Primo Posthuman” (2004) – who have become more predictable, more controlled, and more of the same. The main protagonist in Allen’s film is different as yet not enhanced. From the perspective of the futurist world in this film, he is full of human flaws. He insists on his freedom of thought, speech, and movement. Scott’s classical science fiction films, Alien and Blade Runner, with their dystopian and mythological scenarios are based on alien life – a “foreigner within one” that is dangerous and cannot be accepted as it is eating one up or killing one – and posthuman enhanced and modified life that is also devalued and isolated, a stranger to human life, partly human itself, not wanting to acknowledge this and trying to exterminate the other. In the end, it is not clear who is human and who is a modified human or a machinic hybrid.

Michel Houellebecq’s novel, The Possibilities of an Island (2006), is discussed in Chapter 4, particularly with reference to Moravec’s immortality narratives as outlined in his book, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (2000).

No Empty Space Available

Arctificial Territory is a psychological space, as is any space that is inscribed by history, human interference, and interactions.

As already mentioned in the introduction, my artwork deals with psychological space. My works deal with repetition, control, and manipulation, reviving and inventing narratives for a psychological space that has been defined by history, environment, dreams, theories, and life. This space is a precursor of Arctificial Territory. In the following paragraphs I outline by examples how these works utilise and create this space.


Illustration 3: Video still, Gudrun Bielz, Grauer Raum mit Blau (1987)

In my installation, Grauer Raum mit Blau (1987),[4] onlookers are challenged by a virtually overwhelming display. When I made this artwork, I described it as follows:

“When the audience enters the installation space, an “electronic eye” observes the observer. The image of the eye slowly changes into images with electronic noise. Voices of Radio Free Europe and Radio Moscow are mixed together. Their ideologies have become interchangeable and cannot be deciphered easily. Occasionally, the command ‘Do not look’ is shown on one of the screens. Observers are unable to obey, except when they leave the room. 33 Perspex tubes, each of them 2,5 meters long, are installed as a wave above 3 monitors with blue images that are reflected and mirrored in these tubes. ‘Do not touch’ is the command on the screens there. Observers obey.”

There is the conflict between wanting to watch the visual work and being told not to look, between wanting to touch the sculpture and being told not to touch, between finding out which news is from one ideology or the other one. The artist has control of the space, of how she installs the work, of what kind of instructions she gives the audience and what she imposes on them to follow these. It is a form of control that causes conflicting emotions and reactions for the observers.

In the installation, Untitled 1,[5] I generate a psychological space that recreates unsettling parts of the history of a specific location, giving the audience the choice either to escape or be tormented. When I made this work, I explained it as follows:

“When spectators open the door to the installation room, a sensor registers their movement. Light is switched on, and viewers will find themselves in the spotlight. The spectacle can begin. Commanding voices tell them to sit down and to get up. The room itself is painted white. This represents methods like sensory deprivation (white torture) that were used in Stammheim (German prison where RAF [Red Army Faction] members were kept), where no sounds, no colours, and no stimulants are permitted. The daylight is filtered out, immersing the space in a greyish-blue haze. The history of the building is still present. I intended to create a room that represents this history to a certain extent and makes people feel uncomfortable or just thoughtful. Memories about school are wiped out but some are focused on too clearly. In the past, a catholic public school and the GESTAPO [German Nazi secret police] had used this room. History has already marked this space uncomfortably.”

During the research for Untitled 1, I found out that the exhibition space had been a Gestapo headquarters and a Catholic boarding school in the past. It had been a place of torture, pain, emotional detachment, and controlling, sadistic behaviour by Nazi torturers and by teaching nuns, who had oppressed and punished pupils for not fitting in, not praying the right way, or touching their bodies. I wanted viewers to experience the “soul” of this building, to feel fear and vulnerability. I painted the whole room white and filtered the light out. I created a space with a form of sensoric deprivation, a muted space. Theatrical elements, a stage light and well-placed speakers, put the audience via movement detection sensors into the centre of attention. Visitors had to listen to orders like “Get up!” and “Sit down!” while a floodlight was shining into their faces. They had to pay attention to demanding and controlling voices in a white, nearly empty space. Its history was to be re-enacted in a metaphorical and manipulative, maybe controlling way. I wanted viewers to feel uncomfortable and develop some empathy, perhaps to relive past and present feelings of fear and abandonment.

There are aspects of interactivity. When a spectator opens the door and enters the room, a stage light goes on, and the sound piece starts. The area stays silent without any interference by an audience. The artwork becomes only active and interactive when people enter the installation space. The viewers are carefully guided. They either give in to their fears and leave the room or they stay and try to be impartial observers. Several people left the space in panic because they felt emotionally overwhelmed by the narrative.

Repetitive orders and a white, rather cold ambient bring audience, artist, and exhibition place into Arctificial Territory. This is a seemingly cold space that is signified by memories of oppression, fear, control, and the idea of the superhuman. The viewers are placed in the middle of things. The events unfold after the spectators have entered the room and set the spectacle off.

Untitled 2

Illustration 4: Installation view, Gudrun Bielz, Untitled 1 (1992)

The installation, No Empty Space Available?[6], displays 150 meters of highly polished saw blades, which are cut into long pieces and lined up on concrete floor. The moving beam of a programmable stage light slowly scans the blades. The light follows these lines precisely, endlessly repeating its cycle, and highlights the sharpness and danger of the saws. The beam doesn’t replicate its cycles in exactly the same manner. This breaks the repetitive pattern in the smallest way possible. No repetition is the same! Viewers are not allowed to enter this space physically but are able to watch the event unfold in front of their eyes. The endless motion of the light beam over metal is hypnotising, engaging the audience in a quasi-compulsive ritual.


Illustration 5: Installation view, Gudrun Bielz, No Empty Space Available? (1994)

Untitled [7], a video responding to Poena Damni: Nyctivoe (2005) by the Greek author Dimitris Lyacos, deals with a cold and scary space. The piece circumscribes a space that is inhabited by fearful and mortal life desiring magical powers. The work points towards disembodiment, a virtual world without any physicality:

“… fear, mortality and ‘magic’. The viewer might want to be rescued as suggested in one of the sub-titles, or might get drawn into ‘darker’ ancient times. ‘My skin is blackening. Big pustules open and I cannot breathe.’ is reminiscent of the plague in medieval times. Some of the texts imply that we are living in a world in between, a dream world, a virtual world, a world beyond, a world with no space for any physicality” (Bielz 2005).

This indicates that OCAL, existence in another psychological space, deals with the friction between repetition and repetition, a small space in between physicality and purified disembodied information. One can interpret this as a nano-psychological action, a miniscule psychological process that helps to define OCAL and is part of Arctificial Territory.

Unreliable Perceptions

Music: Booba, 2002b. Feat LIM – Animals. Temps mort, YouTube.

The selected works and films, which I discuss here in more detail, deal with aspects of personality disorders. They have helped develop and contextualise Arctificial Territory with its Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life (OCAL).

Key Terms

Schizophrenic host for alien life – artificial intelligence invading a human body! EXPORT, Invisible Adversaries (1976)

Narcissistic cameras mirroring each other and dancing to their own tunes! Vasulka, ALLVISION (1976) and Machine Vision (1978)

Delusional disorder patient (DDP) no. 1 meets DDP no. 2. They ignore and try to suppress emotions, and they confront each other in machine-like manners! Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder becomes a vital part of OCAL’s make up! New fictional life in a cold territory that blossoms in sub-zero temperatures! Bielz, Arctificial Pandemonium (2015)

The installation, Arctificial Pandemonium, is part of this PhD. I discuss the exhibition in Chapter 5 of this thesis.

Broken Glass

Metaphor: Schizophrenia

Invisible Adversaries, (Unsichtbare Gegner). Directed by VALIE EXPORT. 1976. DVD. 112 min.

Excerpt from video (2’ 13”):


Illustration 6: Film still 1, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

“Schizophrenia is a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour” (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).[8]

In EXPORT’s Invisible Adversaries Anna cannot rely on her observations and feelings that are questioned and ignored by various men in her life. Trying to escape these external control mechanisms, societal norms and men imposing on her, and compulsive and controlling rituals from within, she ceases to be a self, herself, and cannot comprehend herself as a complex and rich conscious being. She freezes in herself. She feels and grows colder and colder. She experiences and inhales arctic cold, arctificiality.

“The Hyksos are coming,”[9] says Anna and looks out of the window, waiting for the appearance of somebody from another world, an ancient world that lies in her future. This moment encompasses the sum of all her experiences and the past of every woman alive or dead. What she actually experiences is a figment of her imagination, inner voices dissociating her from herself, appearing as one Anna (Susanne Widl) and many versions of Anna. There are versions of Peter’s (Peter Weibel) projections, Anna’s own stories, and accounts of all projections from past and present. Anna’s gaze, directed out of the window, invites aliens from an ancient past, the Hyksos[10], who can be seen as the other to herself, the stranger to herself.

There is a world of feedback loops in this film: Anna sleeping with herself (an image of herself, a life-size photograph), the real Anna lying on stairs and changing to a photo of Anna, etc. Images are looped backwards and forwards, to all sides in all directions, into artificial separation of inner and outer existence. The audience can get caught in these loops, if they want to. The audience is caught in these loops, if they want to or not.


Illustration 7: Film still 2, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo


What is reality and what is imagination? What is virtual and what is actual? What is imagined reality and what is actual imagination? This film queries the perception and experience of actual events. Perception and gaze shift and leave a defragmented world, a world in which Anna loses control of her real self by strangely gaining control of an imaginary self that shifts in and out of the dichotomy between real and unreal, normal and not normal, inner and outer world. All of these are inventions that have lost their power and have proven to be narratives that oscillate between concepts of normality, the illusion of precise definitions, the gaze of the other (to ourselves), mirroring, projection (psychoanalysis and film), normality, and new normality (schizophrenia).


Illustration 8: Film still 3, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976),


Anna sees her image reflected in the fridge, a spatially quasi-extended, although pasted mirror image. Her mirror image acts as if it has a life of its own. Anna notices this but is not puzzled. It is as if she were used to thinking and feeling, seeing and acting as different personae all the time at the same time.

This scene makes me think of OCAL as an extended mirror image of humans, projected into a genderless future without mortality and finity. I suppose that the male gaze has informed this idea of no gender, just like in EXPORT’s film. I refer to the scene where Anna has become frozen in the imprisonment of the subtle violence and obvious control mechanisms of a male defining her identity as a female.

When Anna sits in front of her bed, in a room that seems to be warm enough but is so cold that she has to wrap up in a huge jumper, being arrested in a catatonic pose, she seems to have become part of an artificial space that leads into Arctificial Territory.

Everything Orbits Around Myself

Omni-control – Metaphor: Narcissism

Steina Vasulka, ALLVISION, 1976, and Machine Vision, an electro-opto-mechanical environment, 1978.

“Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings” (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

Vasulka developed ALLVISION and Machine Vision in the 1970s. These works are about the exchange and interchange between human and machine, the dance between them, and the idea of the gaze of the artificial eye on the reflection of the world around it. This world becomes an invention of the machine, a science fiction narrative, solely directed by a machine that is an artefact and placeholder for the human eye and its gaze.


Illustration 9: Installation view, Steina Vasulka, ALLVISION (1976)

Video cameras mirror themselves and their environment in a mirror ball, a crystal ball; these mirror images are captured and mirrored again in television screens that act as mirrors of and to the world. This can be seen as a metaphor for the narcissistic reflection of the world mirrored by machines in love with and in awe of themselves.

Cameras do not have feelings, and their captured objects have no feelings either. Though they look like objects in action, they are frozen in camera motion. Cameras that record their mirror images are narcissists that have escaped the curse of falling into the well. They long for the beauty they can only see but not feel. Vasulka’s work can be understood as the interpretation of a self-absorbed world by a self-loving monitoring or recording machine, a self-referential artificial eye reflected in mirrors. This is a form of feedback loop.


Illustration 10: Installation view, Steina Vasulka, Machine Vision (1978)

ALLVISION and Machine Vision point towards a world with self-referential machines that is devoid of biological life. The artificial eyes (cameras) are perfectly happy with their quasi-narcissistic mirroring. They are narcissistic dancers reflecting their selves, recognising themselves as others, mirrored in themselves and mirroring their environment, imprisoning it in the apparently confined space of monitors that direct our gaze into the world of cathodes and electronic signals: deconstruction and reconstruction. A magical trick! Illusion!

The surrounding space is bent in this mirror ball, this magic crystal ball, and sent back into its own gaze, momentarily blinding its vision – only to come back as a similar gaze, slightly shifted, drowning in another experience of time. These artificial eyes define the environment as much as they mirror it. They are in a position that swallows up the world and spits it out on small monitors observing the observers. This is a feedback loop; cameras, audience, and mirrored reflections observe each other. There is no escape from an omnipresent observer.

The installations, ALLVISION and Machine Vision, are about omnipresence and mirroring more than just the self, reflecting the other to us (strangers to ourselves), echoing these mirror images in their environment. The works are about a form of expanded narcissism, an oxymoron.

The question then arises: how might Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life perceive its environment? It might look at it like Alice through the looking glass, filtered via sophisticated systems or with a barbaric basic idea of vision, pixelating the whole world and not being able to recognize what you and I might perceive. Unlike Vasulka’s artificial eyes, OCAL will not drown in its own image. It probably won’t reflect the world within the world.

I Am a Machine, Not a Human

Metaphor: Dissociative Disorder

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay. Directed by Park Chan-wook. Palisades Tartan. 2008. DVD.

Trailer (2’07”):

“We all get lost in a good book or movie. But someone with dissociative disorder escapes reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy. The symptoms of dissociative disorders – ranging from amnesia to alternate identities – usually develop as a reaction to trauma and help keep difficult memories at bay” (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay is a film about a woman who is convinced that she is a cyborg warrior. She falls in love with another hospital patient who believes he can steal other people’s souls. She asks him to steal her sympathy (empathy) for people, so she can kill the people in white (hospital staff) without remorse. She wants to be a machine through and through.

“Time to meditate. Get up and listen to the hum of the fridge in the middle of the night. … Feel the sound of the boiler that has been running all night. They move us to tears because they have a purpose of existence” (Young-goon, female protagonist, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, Scene 1).


Illustration 11: Film still 1, Park Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2008)

The female protagonist Young-goon works in a factory with production lines for transistors and motherboards. Everybody wears the same uniform. She sees herself as part of the bigger system, part of an interconnected computer system, a cyborg.

Young-goon feels so in tune with the machines that she plugs herself into the mains. Afterwards she wakes up in a mental hospital. She meets a guy who is delusional and takes “loving” control of her, while she believes that she is a robot. She is a robot as well as a human. She might be psychotic. She is also very detached from what we call reality, although she lives in her own bubble of reality. She thinks that computer mice are her brothers and sisters, and she calls herself the mother mouse. This is not so different from Pinky and the Brain[11] with Brain wanting to control the world. As the mother mouse she can control the actions of all other mice that give access to computers and networks.


Illustration 12: Film still 2, Park Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2008)

The paranoid male protagonist Il-sun wants to control the delusional biological female “robot”. Young-goon tries to forget all emotional pain by acting like a machine, with repetition and predictable motions. Most of the time she is lost in a dreamscape of machine feelings. She refuses to communicate with human psychologists, parents, or co-workers. For Il-sun she can be his perfect projection screen, though she has escaped into her own actuality of being a robot. Connecting to the mains, nearly killing her, has given her a new life; however, it brings her to a mental hospital. She invents an actuality that has helped her to overcome the effects of the machine-like emotionless behaviour of her biological peers. It is less painful to be a machine than being a human who is treated like a machine. She can obtain control of herself. “I am a machine” gives her strength and authority. The male protagonist tries to control the woman who tries to gain control over her uncontrollable surroundings by transforming into a “flesh and blood” machine.

Young-goon talks to fluorescent lights, to vending machines, and to electrical sockets, as they seem to understand her. They are made of the same fabric. She has escaped into her own world because humans tyrannise her, ignore her, and tell her what to do. When she talks about computer mice being her brothers and sisters, she expresses that she is a machine: “I am a machine, but I did not come with a label or an instruction manual anywhere.“[12]

At the end of the film, the male protagonist feeds the woman’s delusion, so he can keep her alive as a human. He tells her what she has to do. He wants to protect her. In his bubble he invades her bubble, and she is so translucent and machinistic that she takes his bubble on. She starts to eat again because he tells her that she has a chip implanted in her brain. She wants to blow herself up but does not succeed because her friend has manipulated the radio antenna she uses to attract a lighting bolt. I see this as a metaphor for the happy coexistence of human and machine that is a human in disguise. The human shows empathy for the deluded human machine; and the machine can survive as it not only feeds of batteries and tries to attract all other machines but also can be human without having to be aware of its humanness.


Illustration 13: Film still 3, Park Chan-wook, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2008)


The works discussed above deal with different variants of personality disorder. The protagonists suffer either from schizophrenia and psychotic delusions or the machines represent and create a quasi-narcissistic world. They are creative and humanised as machines, and they are creative and machinistic as humans. The thesis, “Arctificial Territory”, utilises another personality disorder, OCD, to develop a futuristic psychological science fiction space.


In this chapter I have outlined what artwork has led to this research. I have introduced artistic psychological space and discussed how a selection of my and other artists’ works relate to this space via elements of artistic interventions with reference to personality disorders. These works are either precursors of Arctificial Territory or already part of it because they act in a cold, repetitive space without essentially being cold and repetitive.



Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources



[1] The philosopher Dan O’Hara extensively commented on my ideas in a message on Facebook, but this communication got lost, and he wrote a shorter reply to give me an overview of what he had written in the erased message (O’Hara 2011).

[2] Gregory Bateson was a social scientist and cyberneticist. A double bind is a conflicting situation in which a person or a system experience a dilemma and can neither resolve nor abandon the problem. I interpret this as a feedback loop that is stuck somewhere, comparable to playing a scratched CD that does not seem to move forwards or backwards, hence blocking the information flow.

[3] “The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence” (Kurzweil 2011).

[4] Gudrun Bielz, Grauer Raum mit Blau (Grey Room with Blue), installation, shown at the exhibition TRIGON: Styrian Autumn, Neue Galerie Graz, 1987.

[5] Gudrun Bielz, Unititled 1, installation, shown at the exhibition Im Raum Schule, Offenes Kulturhaus Linz, 1992.

[6] Gudrun Bielz, No Empty Space Available, installation, shown at Galerie 5020, Salzburg, within the context of the film festival DIAGONALE, 1994.

[7] Gudrun Bielz, Untitled , video installation, Faces of Death, Ilion Galleries, Athens, 2005.

[8] I have quoted the clinical definitions by the Mayo Clinic to give a short overview of the characteristics of each personality disorder.

[9] Invisible Adversaries, Scene 1.

[10] Hyksos: “A people of mixed Semitic-Asiatic stock, probably including a proportion of Habiru, who gave their name to the fifteenth Egyptian Dynasty (1650–1558 b.c.) which ruled the eastern delta” (OED 2010).

[11] Pinky and the Brain is a 1990s American television animation. Brain wants to rule the world and never succeeds. They are “genetically enhanced lab mice” (, n.d.).

[12] I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, Scene 1.