Ars Electronica 1993
Festival-Program 1993
Back to:
Festival 1979-2007


To Live Longer

'Gerhard Johann Lischka Gerhard Johann Lischka

Splitting reality into subject and object brings about not only polarization but also fusion. The more we refer to object, objectification and alienation, the more excessively the subject is enhanced, as such. This applies in radical constructivism, where it is said that everyone constructs his or her own world. This also applies in medicine, where through organ transplants, objects as foreign bodies make the body, in its fragility, functional again. Function is a word normally used in conjunction with machines, but from a technological (objective) standpoint, the body is after all a machine.

Machines are increasingly serving medicine, by taking the body apart, examining it, analysing it, etc. Computer programs help in diagnosing illnesses, in operations, and in the healing process. The boundaries between subject and object are becoming so fluid that mutual cross-fertilization – with simultaneous rejection – is taking place. There is not only a mental meeting of macro- and microcosm in the brain (as right and left hemispheres) where they mutually complement each other; these spheres are inseparable from each other.

The way things stand, the surroundings (all objects) put the subject under the pressure of technological impact, making it ill, killing it. This is another aspect of the shifting and erasing of the boundaries between object (world) and subject. Our surroundings swallow us up and we are secularized man-eaters in that we adopt foreign organs or objects.
To negate death or define the afterlife belongs to the cultural techniques most societies use to get over the pain of having to die, and the loss of loved ones. Death can also be negated by making it a taboo to the extent that it is in our western society. Death is an outrage against the belief in progress, which is supposed to make our lives more comfortable. One wants to grow beyond oneself, reach the unreachable, immortality.

This life-extension is familiar to us from the first sculptures, the king lying in state, slowly decomposing but made whole and complete by durable materials. In today's art we are still seeing this way of keeping the dead in the land of the living, together with reincarnation magic. It outlives us, and transports the ideas of humanity into the future.

But art is being put under serious pressure by the magician, today's medicine man, the surgeon, by the artificial body he creates. This has its origin in embryology, in specific intervention in the genetic code, and ends in re-animation or in brain transplants as a Fountain of Youth. The cycle of life is no longer cyclic – natural but progressive – artificial.
Whereas mummification required a body, which was to be spiritually transcended, today's mediumistically mummified body lives on as a poor imitation. Together with the technique of cloning, the perpetualization of one and the same body as the living dead or the dead living. Not only are we now in fact living longer thanks to scientific discovery, but also thanks to our second bodies in various media. The mediatization has become the hereafter in the present, in that the "dead" are among us.