Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It has been a while

'Cause nothing much seems to have happened over here. His Royal Highness Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands, passed away last Thursday. The anouncement of his death was made in the middle of a soccer broadcast. Luckily the country was not shut down until the funeral will be over, like it was at the times of death of Juliana and Claus.

It is a sign of the speed of our times, though, that journalists and news papers didn't wait for the funeral to publish major and minor incriminating information about the Prince. Two days after he died, it was reported on television that the weekly newspaper De Groene Amsterdammer would publish an interview their former chief editor, the late Martin van Amerongen, had had with the Prince, in which the latter admitted to have received a million dollars (or guilders?) worth of bribes from Lockheed. The current editor-in-chief of the Magazine endorsed this premature revelation by making an appearance himself in a tv news show in which he summarized and assessed the meaning of the Prince's statements. This has become a familiar ritual by now: tv programmes tell you what you will be able to read in print press publications, so you don't have to bother to read those publications themselves anymore. Apparently the sales of De Groene are so low that the editor thinks that this pre-publication on tv might boost the sales of this edition of De Groene beyond their normal level. However, by the time De Groene will appear in the bookstands everybody will have forgotten about the Prince's bribes or consider it 'old news'. And old news is for wrapping herrings, as they say in the Netherlands.

The other thing that keeps people busy here - besides the ongoing debates about our muslim fellow country men and women - are the boops of Georgina Verbaan. Flesh or chips, carbon or silicon, that's the question. In order to provide evidence that her tits are what they look they are Georgie had X-ray pictures of her boobies - which she tenderly calls 'Harries' - published on the front page of the biggest national news paper, De Telegraaf.
There is obviously quite a lot of irony in this gesture. To prove she has 'natural' breasts, Georgina produces highly technologically mediated images of the inside of her Harries: to show that her breasts are 'real' and not supported by prosthetic aides, she deploys advances technological extensions of the human eye that allow us to look under her skin. But whereas the pictures of her skin on the cover and inside of Playboy could be apprehended in the blink of an eye by anyone, the X-ray pictures displayed on the front page of the Telegraph could only be grasped by a few trained professionals who have the skills required to 'read' X-ray photographs. I for sure could not tell the difference between an X-ray picture of juicy fleshy breasts and a picture of dry silicon cones.

In a way, this titties-test shows what has become of the infamous Turing test in our days and age. People have become anxious to scrutinze the appearances of other human beings in order to try to establish whether they are 'real' or some technological contraption. Georgina is either very naive or (unbelievably) clever to bounce the scrutinizing gaze back to the beholder with scientific evidence that really proves nothing. It actually re-enacts the only really important question the Turing test raised: what difference does a difference make?

The jury is still out on that one, but the question only seems to become more imporant in the culture of the information society in which bodies are being increasingly seen as expressions of information patterns. If one succeeds in finding the key that unlocks the 'source codes' of our bodily being, such as the genome, one may start thinking of generating and engineering bodies or body parts one self, as has been prefigured in films like the Star Trek series ('beam me up, Scotty'), Terminator2 (Terminator Arnie),The Matrix (agent Smith), Lord of the Rings (Gollum), or Steven Spielberg's AI (little David), and is already being practiced in the cloning of animals (Dolly, and in the Netherland the bull Herman). Who can tell the difference between a 'natural' sheep and her clone Dolly? And again: what difference would that make? In Georgina's titty-Turing-test the human body is played out as a 'site' of naturalness, which only shows that it has already become a site of nostalgia in our contemporary posthuman culture.

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