[ISEA2011] Panel: Zach Blas – Virus, Viral, Queer

Panel Statement

Panel: Queer Viralities: Resistant Practices in New Media Art & Philosophy

In “After Life: De Anima and Un­hu­man Pol­i­tics,” Eu­gene Thacker writes: “If our global con­text of cli­mate change, dis­as­ters, pan­demics, or com­plex net­works tells us any­thing, it is that po­lit­i­cal thought today de­mands a con­cept of life ad­e­quate to it anony­mous, un­hu­man di­men­sions, an un­hu­man pol­i­tics, for un­hu­man life.”

While Gal­loway & Thacker have urged us not to look for pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics in dis­eases, can­cers, and viruses, every­thing about our con­tem­po­rary mo­ment forces us to look there. It has been ar­gued we now live in a viral ecol­ogy under the sign of viral cap­i­tal­ism, along­side viral media and philoso­phies. This ex­plo­sion of all things viral sug­gests fas­ci­nat­ing, weird, and un­hu­man move­ments be­tween the life of the virus and the human des­ig­na­tion of what is viral. Fol­low­ing this, can we have a no­tion of the viral that does not co­in­cide with cap­i­tal­ism? Queer­ness seems to tell us we can. I will pro­ceed to ar­tic­u­late what a queer viral (or un­hu­man) pol­i­tics might (or ought to) be by ex­am­in­ing the over­lap­pings, dif­fer­ences, and ir­re­ducibil­i­ties of the virus (bi­o­log­i­cal en­tity) and the viral (char­ac­ter­is­tics of the virus ap­plied to other things). I will specif­i­cally con­sider the virus/viral re­la­tion along two axes: 1) from virus to viral based on ac­tion: repli­ca­tion and cryp­tog­ra­phy, or what Alex Gal­loway and Eu­gene Thacker call the “be­com­ing-num­ber” of the virus, and 2) from virus to viral based on its per­cep­tual world, or how to gen­er­ate the viral through a spec­u­la­tion on, or “alien phe­nom­e­nol­ogy” of, its “umwelt.” I will argue that the un­hu­man is the me­di­at­ing link be­tween the virus and the viral, and that a queer viral pol­i­tics en­gages with both these axes in novel ways. I will specif­i­cally look at Tim Dean’s writ­ings on bare­back­ing cul­ture, Luce Iri­garay’s work on mim­icry, and the art­work of Queer Tech­nolo­gies.

  • Zach Blas is an artist and writer work­ing at the in­ter­sec­tions of net­worked media, queer­ness, and the po­lit­i­cal. His cur­rent pro­ject, Queer Tech­nolo­gies, is an or­ga­ni­za­tion that de­vel­ops ap­pli­ca­tions and sit­u­a­tions for queer in­ter­ven­tion and so­cial for­ma­tion. Zach has ex­hib­ited at the Foun­da­tion for Art and Cre­ative Tech­nol­ogy in Liv­er­pool, High­ways Per­for­mance Space, Los An­ge­les Con­tem­po­rary Ex­hi­bi­tions, File Elec­tronic Lan­guage In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val in Brazil, and the 2010 Arse Elek­tron­ika Fes­ti­val in San Fran­cisco, where he was the re­cip­i­ent of a Prixxx Arse Elek­tron­ika. He has re­cently pub­lished in version.org and has work forth­com­ing in Fi­brecul­ture Jour­nal. His work has been writ­ten about in Wired, Canon Mag­a­zine, and the South At­lantic Quaterly. He is also a PhD stu­dent in Lit­er­a­ture and Vi­sual Stud­ies at Duke Uni­ver­sity, US.