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


Music: Radiohead. Like Spinning Plates. Amnesiac. YouTube.

Pathways to Arctificial Territory

“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[1] came out of a conversation he had with Norbert Wiener about how to make a computer schizophrenic” (O’Hara 2011).

As already mentioned in “Contextual Scene: Artwork”, O’Hara noted that my research ideas reminded him of the original cybernetics conference and the discussion between Bateson and Wiener in relation to computers and schizophrenia. O’Hara touched on two essentials: firstly, my methodology concerning feedback loops and secondly, my reference to personality disorders within psychological space.

My thesis has shown that I work in cross-disciplinary ways, utilising new technologies, science fact and fiction, philosophy, computer art, text, sound, objects, and moving images. My own artwork deals with and creates psychological space. I have discussed this in the chapter “Contextual Scene: Artwork” and described psychological space as any actual or virtual space that is defined by historical, societal, artistic, philosophical, scientific, or personal events.

My inspiration for Arctificial Territory came from the idea of arctic cold representing “frozen” emotions and structures of OCD. Many formations and systems seem to create and follow repetitive and compulsive rules. Originally, I wanted to create a form of life that has fun and is also obsessed with manipulating its environment, little AI dictators, for the want of it. Over time, I have modified this by inventing and exploring a fictional artistic space that is also home to Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life (OCAL).

It is apparent from my work that process is more important than results. I have applied methods that are complex, rhizomatic, and not monistic. The research text and artwork that form this thesis, including a documentation of the final exhibition, are published on the Internet, in blog-format with interactive links to texts, research, bibliography, artwork, and videos. This allows readers to comment on my thesis and expand on the research. It enables some form of branching out, utilising Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the rhizome with its links between branches and roots, its networking and pluralistic connectivity.

In “Introduction and Methodology I presented and examined my chosen methodology: Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome, Wiener’s feedback loops, and Feyerabend’s theory of non-monistic methods.

Throughout this thesis the theoretical insights gained have creatively infused the artwork and OCAL’s voice within the text facilitating empathic, obsessive, and compulsive chaotic “life”. These transformations have fed back into the research that in turn has influenced the artwork that again has affected the research, and so on.

Wiener’s feedback loops are self-referential systems. Information is fed back to the controller, and the control unit sends out information to the controlled, both holding each other at bay. I have demonstrated that the dialogue between OCAL, artwork, and theoretical research within this thesis is a form of feedback loop.

Control and repetition are key actions in empirical scientific methods. My interest in quantum physics and the change of perception in science through this theory led me to Feyerabend’s work and his statement: “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), which I have examined within the context of my methodology. Classical physics is about determinism, whereas quantum physics has changed the idea of fixed predictable processes and led us into the field of uncertainty and indeterminism.

Empirical methods allow for uncertainty. They are pseudo-linear methods. Measurements and observations are never accurate because they depend on people, environment, and mathematical theorems. This is called the observer effect in quantum mechanics. I have applied non-linear methods that can be perceived as linear at stages where I had to frame my research to clarify thoughts.

Through Feyerabend’s concept of methodology, I have shown that even the attempt of not using a method, despite my use of feedback loops and the rhizome as guidelines, leads to a methodology. I followed Feyerabend’s theory as he argues against monistic methods and believes that they have to be, in my words, rhizome-like (pluralistic) to generate knew knowledge. This has led to feeding my thesis with all sorts of current knowledge or fictional settings that have generated many different manifestations like visual and literal artwork and theoretical assertions. They all have utilised different sources and connections to various models of thinking and making, so to create an array of different ways of thinking and making.

In “Contextual Scene: Artwork I have analysed my own and other artists’ works with reference to psychological disorders and discussed how my installations and videos, Grauer Raum mit Blau, No Empty Space Available?, Untitled 1, and Untitled, create psychological spaces. I have set the scene for the development of a new psychological space for art and suggested that these works are either predecessors to Arctificial Territory or already part of it.

I explored works by EXPORT, Vasulka, and Chan-wook in relation to my practice because these inhabit a complex and apparently dysfunctional psychological space that is similar to my idea of an Arctificial Territory demonstrating some obsessive- compulsive traits.

EXPORT’s film, Invisible Adversaries, deals with an emotionally defunct place where Peter, the man, tries to control Anna, the woman, who displays schizophrenic characteristics and is cornered into loneliness and a freezing cold place all on her own. In Vasulka’s installations, Machine Vision and ALLVISION, self-reflecting machines (video cameras, artificial eyes) reflect the world in their own impenetrable surface and tell us: “It is all about me” and “You are a mirror image of myself”. The machines are narcissistic manipulators that rotate around themselves and absorb the environment in their blank surfaces. They also reflect it back into the space. In Chan-wook’s film, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, the delusional protagonist believes that she is a computer and lives the life of a human machine in a mental institution. Finally, she succumbs to the delusion and thrives on the illusive assurance of machinic life.

I discussed a selection of my art works that cover control, manipulation, rigidity, repetitive motions, and fear of death. My installation, No empty Space Available?, employs the painstakingly repetitive movement of a light beam over lines of saw blades, a paraphrase of lines on a computer screen, enhancing the pathway and highlighting the metallic teeth of a dangerous weapon. These are controlling and repetitive traits that I have assigned to compulsive behaviour and exist within Arctificial Territory.

I have argued that such scenarios create a truly cold space that is about the coldness and aloofness of rational optimised humans or disembodied new life, pure information. Throughout this thesis I developed a discourse to establish that obsessive-compulsive life represents the essence of order and loss of control (chaos), a paradoxical situation, in an artificial fictional new space that I call Arctificial Territory.

Bringing in the idea of the other can solve the dilemma of a cold impersonal space, one that is created by the singularity with its idea of superhuman new life. In Chapter 1: Feed Us, Please Feed Us – We Need You, I explored Kristeva’s “the foreigner within us”, Nietzsche’s “strangers to ourselves”, Levinas’ “the humanness of the Other”, and Lacan’s “mirror stage” for OCAL’s psychological growth. These concepts have shown that the alien – the other, the stranger, the unknown, the futuristic otherness – is already implemented in each one of us. While Levinas’ Other[2] made OCAL aware of itself because “The Other is absorbed in the Same” (2006, p.40), Kristeva’s and Nietzsche’s strangers, foreigners, and others allowed OCAL to realise its otherness. There is an estrangement, a dissociation, which has to be consolidated one way or another. Lacan’s “mirror stage” granted OCAL – originally believing that there is the other (and not it) in the mirror – the discovery of the self, hence uniting both the other and the self. I have suggested that OCAL (and consequently Arctificial Territory) needs the Other (other) for its emotional survival. We require this otherness in futuristic psychological space, so to transform it into an interactive, communicative, social, original, but not essentially anthropocentric place. I have argued that Arctificial Territory is a space that needs the other in us and is strange to itself. I have contextualised this new psychological space as a place that needs altruism and can develop this by accepting the other within itself, understanding that there are many familiar and strange others in one place. Otherness has to be ingrained in its psychological (space) profile.

In “Never the Same Again” I discussed Baudrillard’s concepts of simulacra. By placing the new psychological space into simulacrum three, I have proposed that Arctificial Territory is a combination of one (utopia) and two (science fiction), creating three (something different, hybrid space).

In defining a psychological space that relates to obsessive-compulsive structures, experienced and (or) inflicted by humans and (or) machines, I touched on some concepts of trans- and posthuman life (Moravec, Kurzweil, Fuller, etc.) in Chapter 1, 2, and 3, but as I have argued in these chapters, this is not a thesis about posthumanism or about models of consciousness and obsessive-compulsive traits. This research is about a new artistic, psychological space, my invention, which is informed by selected narratives.

In Chapter 1, “Fun Fair: A Trip to Post- and Transhuman Stuff”, as well as in Chapter 3, “Consciousness Is Stuff” and “Arctificial Flavours: Selective Perception”, I examined transhumanist concepts like Kurzweil’s singularity and Moravec’s narratives that ask for transhuman life with superhuman qualities. These ideas talk about enhancement and modification, gearing towards something better and more resilient than humans, as well as shifting the idea of immortality from physics and cell biology to more complex biological systems that merge with machines. For some thinkers machines seem to be less scary than humans with their complex emotional “erroneous” patterns. I have postulated that to erase human error is to erase the humane.

When I started this research, I thought about Arctificial Territory as a place void of emotions and filled with arctic cold as a metaphor for the absence of empathy, sympathy, and altruism. However, throughout this thesis I have discovered and demonstrated that this arctic space is an ambiguous place that develops into a different space, a new space that is less vacuous and cold than I had originally thought.

In “Chapter 2: In Control – Out of Control, I investigated obsessional or compulsive traits that are characterised by repetitive thoughts and actions by reference to OCD and computing. I discussed my aversion to repetition with Morton, who came up with following statement: “Repetition is a way of saying good-bye to something without being able to let go” (Bielz, 2011b). This describes a dilemma in OC personalities that keeps them at bay: not being able to let go by pretending that one can let go.

I set out to learn about OC traits in anticipated future (trans- and posthuman) life, trying to prove that rigid, repetitive, obsessional, and compulsive behaviour will lead to utilitarian life with an emphasis on rationality, though OC traits cover up irrational fears and general anxiety. They still allow for emotions, empathy, and altruistic tendencies. I allowed OCAL to communicate within the research text and find its own voice. OCAL and I discovered that OCAL is irrational, fallible, confused, and loveable. I have suggested that a perfect artificial consciousness has doubt, anxiety, and modes of panic. This makes it creative and more humane. It appears to be emotionally cold life in an arctic environment, but, in fact, it is arctificial life with all its doubts and fallibilities.

In this chapter I have established that superficially OCAL is about control and essentially it is about losing control and trying to negotiate the tension between in control and out of control.

Within the context of OC traits, futuristic philosophy, and art, Steve Fuller’s assertion of “‘Humanity 2.0’ as a bipolar disorder” (2011a, p.3) was of importance. I introduced this statement in Chapter 1. Fuller maintains that concepts of humanity and Humanity 2.0 point towards bipolar disorder because of the dualism between our search for transcendence and our animal nature. Here I mention again (see quote on top of this chapter) that O’Hara indicated that there is already a framework for machines (future life concepts) and psychological disorders. This repetition practically demonstrates that repetition is also part of the so-called disorder and has recurred in this research, in texts, images, videos, and exhibitions as formal and significant element.

Futuristic models, be they transhuman or posthuman, anthropocentric or not, encompass different notions about consciousness. Hence I explored in “Consciousness Is Stuff” models of consciousness, such as the mind as machine, and concepts based on quantum theory and neuroscience in “Chapter 3: Please Don’t Render Me Unconscious. Emotions and emotional computing were also examined in this chapter. I touched on theories of embodiment in robotics and AI and introduced Moravec’s idea of uploading the mind (information) into a new immaterial “container”, a form of disembodied future life. By giving OCAL its own voice and interweaving it – via text and video – with my findings, I have suggested that OCAL and Arctificial Territory are conscious and emotionally capable entities and places.

In “Chapter 4: Dream Away Baby, Your Head Is Rolling, I critically investigated a selection of narratives in specific transhumanist concepts that explain human emotions away and see them as dangerous archaic surplus. Kurzweil et al. judge emotions as impetuous and redundant; they compare them with the unpredictability of non-linear systems and chaos (even with its apparent microscopic order). I realised that a world without emotions and empathy looked like a place of utilitarian pragmatism, where every thought and action was rated by its possible productive outcome. This only could be a cold world that wanted to imprison the so-called irrational feelings of human animals and to implement rigid, controlling, and measurable structures for present and future life scenarios. Some of the ideas were to encourage the invention of superhuman future life that is more intelligent, more endurable, bigger, better, and more beautiful. At the same time one needs concepts and fantasies of immortality (Moravec, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind [2000]) so that one doesn’t lose control over these rigid life narratives. Immortality, which can also be seen as longevity[3], will be available to wealthy people while others will still die of disease and poverty or become research objects. I deducted that it is pragmatic and greedy thinking that leads to these ideas, or rather the fear of unpredictability, loss of control and power, and the fight against scary irrationality, this unscientific demon that sometimes overwhelms the human mind.

Having discussed theories of immortality by Moravec and Kurzweil and compared these with ideas in Houellebecq’s novel, The Possibility of an Island (2006), I have suggested that these are models of fear with the need to control evolutionary processes. They imply eternity and perfection. Nevertheless, they aim to conceal our mortality and fallibilities. I have argued that the idea of superhuman life is about life at cessation, and immortality is about death and not life. Hence OCAL has to be mortal if it wants to be alive.

As part of this thesis, I have produced a series of videos with microscopic images, discussed in “Chapter 5: Manifests and Mirrors, which show structures but actually reveal structured chaos that is about apparent order that cannot maintain order. The space, the chaos, the order are always in between, in the middle of things.

I have posited that Arctificial Territory is arctificial-land, a hybrid dream, going beyond Manovich’s concepts of Turing-land, a technological paradise, and Duchamp-land, an artistic heaven.

By letting it contemplate its trepidations, ideas about consciousness, and ambivalence about immortality scripts, I have given OCAL many voices in texts (using a different typeface or colour), videos, and in the final installation, Arctificial Pandemonium, which is part of this practice-based PhD. These voices reflect, communicate with, and challenge examined theories and findings. “The OCAL manifesto” summarises OCAL’s background and concerns.

“We are repetitive. We need order and structure. We need repetition. We abhor boredom. How can we escape repetitions, obsessions, and compulsions by repeating and repeating? We are obsessed by thoughts of following you, stalking you, you human life… You contaminate us. We are OCAL. REPEAT. REPEAT AFTER US. We are OCAL. We are OCAL. We are arctificial” (“Impure Bodies and Pure Souls”, CHAPTER 4).

Audiences can explore this space online and in the exhibition; they can use the links to videos or connect to the images and voices in the installation, Arctificial Pandemonium, and decide if they want to be part of Arctificial Territory or mere observers.

In Arctificial Pandemonium I showed that the chaos of voices and images covers up the rigidity and repetitive actions displayed in some of the video work. The videos form a symphony of sounds and visuals, permitting the audience to immerse in this cacophony of information. I have suggested that this makes everybody and everything – audience, artist, and artwork – part of the same space even if viewers want to escape the apparent “ordered” chaos.

The artistic works and films discussed in this thesis have informed Arctificial Territory and manifested themselves either as predecessors or as representatives. I have posited that the creators of these works form and belong to Arctificialism.

Finally, I have proposed Arctificialism as a new movement for artists and everybody who wants to participate in this new artistic -ism. This gave artists like EXPORT and myself a novel and different framework to examine and place their artwork and methodologies.

Arctificialism was created as an artistic position that moves in the hybrid, the arctificial space of machines, computers, humans, and animals. I conceived Arctificial Territory as an artistic and philosophical space that is defined by: technological and human utopian narratives, creative afterlife fantasies, and the artistic, passionate (compulsive) drive to transform human animal life to machinic, artificial existence at is worst and arctificial, hybrid, and humane life at its best.


In this dissertation I have devised Arctificial Territory as a space that we have created and we are immersed in.

I have posited: Arctificial Territory is psychological space; it is made up of artificial and arctic, a hybrid that is not natural and inhabits a very cold space; it expands in a world that emphasises new materialist philosophies and transhuman and posthuman scenarios for a different world order; it is arctificial-land going beyond Manovich’s concepts of Turing-land and Duchamp-land; it belongs to Baudrillard’s simulacrum three and is the actualisation of new hybrid space.

In this thesis I have explored the idea of a dislocated space, an electronic heaven – cyberspace, a world full of computational models, algorithmic truths and decisions between zeros and ones with all their mutations, empathy and the lack of it, creative chaos and rigidity, OCD structures, immortality and afterlife narratives.

I have discovered that if empathy and feelings, creativity and chaos, irrationality and unpredictability are exchanged in favour of indifference and reason, empiricism and repetition, control and measurement – if a world decides that zeros and ones are its guide dogs – then we enter a distorted psychological space. Concepts with computational models of the mind as mere machine consciousness, ideas that need to extract all information from our bodies and brains to upload it into more durable and commercially viable embodiments, turn our life into a place with disembodied information as source and essence of life. If information is seen as the ultimate truth that can be extracted from our brains, then we will enter a truly dystopian space that resembles Arctificial Territory. However, I have postulated that Arctificial Territory is a creative and dynamic psychological space that is also home to OCAL, Obsessive- Compulsive Arctificial Life.

I employed OC traits as erroneous human qualities to make OCAL more process-oriented and humane as in altruistic, explorative, irrational, empathic, fallible, fearful, mortal, chaotic, and uncertain in opposition to superhuman and perfect. I have demonstrated in text and artwork that it is slightly dysfunctional yet rather lovable new life that is oscillating between its need for controlling its anxieties and flaws and the human wish for superhuman immortality. OCAL turned out to be a confused species that exists in different shapes and flavours and is not defined by commercial interests or utilitarian principles. It is dissimilar to other conceived fictional life because it has not been developed to become better or more durable than humans. Finally, OCAL has discovered that it is not in control and only can exist in a finite world. It has emerged as another (different) species with an “other” (the human) in itself, and it has shown that even repetitive rituals, compulsive actions, and obsessional thoughts can occur in a variety of patterns. Contrary to the dreams of a few proponents of transhuman life, OCAL does not seek to become superhuman but wishes to live with its imperfections that make it creative and unpredictable and transform it into a work of art.

By utilising and creating scenarios of anticipated future life and revealing that they are science fiction, I have shown that they move in an artistic space that does not have to become science fact. All concepts of trans- and posthuman life, engineered by science and philosophy, are also ideas that take place in psychological space. Arctificial Territory provided a series of feedback loops that have liberated science fiction from simulating to be science fact.

I have maintained that Arctificial Territory is a mega-psychological space with the markers of utopia. It can also be read as a dystopian space. Art can turn Arctificial Territory into any space. This new psychological space is any space; it is also utopia (no space).

Arctificialism is the new -ism for artists and people who show affinity to Arctificial Territory. It serves the contextualisation of artists’ works, ideas, and imaginary or real journeys. I interviewed the artist VALIE EXPORT who uses Arctificialism as means to travel to the Arctic and Antarctic. If she will realise her journey within the framework of Arctificialism is the topic of possible new research within this context.



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] Double bind is a form of feedback loop.

[2] I use Other when I refer to Levinas’ Other contrary to Nietzsche’s or Kristeva’s other or Lacan’s little other.

[3] I referred to de Grey’s age research and the SENS Foundation in Chapter 1.




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