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ASAP/4 : Genres of the Present (Panel Proposal) Simon Clark, Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher, Daniel Rourke

12th April 2012

Figuring Genre in Contemporary Culture: How to Survive in a Post-Zombie Digital Landscape


This panel will take as its starting point generic figures, or figures that have become bound by genre. We use the term figure in deference to its ambiguity. Figure connotes both the material and semiotic; a thing and thing(s) maybe outside thing-relations. We mean to use the figure in the sense it has come to mean in the recent work (or recently translated work) of Latour and Haraway: something combinatory; fabricated, knotty, enchanting, enchanted. Each speaker will approach a figure that has been overburdened with cultural signification; we will attempt to unpack some of the ways these figures have come to mean in contemporary culture. Without intending to suggest these figures are only of the presentthey all have historiesit is the case that the subjects of these papers have all come to be over-articulated in the present. These figures all seem to fulfil a figurative impulse; providing models that speak to a contemporary, particularly digital moment. The figures we will consider are: the zombie, The Thing, E-pets, and r&b star-bots. These figures are all generically defined: the zombie as a highly malleable horror trope that has proliferated throughout popular culture; The Thing as a science fiction reification of biological imperatives; e-pets as the digital descendants of figures from fables and children's stories; r&b artists defined within that genre but whose performances reconfigure cyborg and futurist theories. These subjects prove to be intricately implicated in this present moment, coming to stand in for much socio-cultural apprehension about the position of digital technology in our lives. But the impulse behind these papers is to intervene in that reading; we propose a more playful approach, responding to the prevailing ideologies that cloak these figures by fabricating something more multiplex. The panel will take the form of four 15 minute papers. The participants/paper topics are: Simon Clark (Goldsmiths, University of London): The zombie first stumbled onto our screens as a rank embodiment of paradoxical weirdness that devoured the human bodys familiar figuration. But the vertiginous nonsense of the undead body has since been reconstituted as a highly saturated figuring device within the commercial horror genre. This paper attempts to re-figure the zombies weirdness as a performative methodology that can be mobilised outside the diegesis of horror. The Undead body becomes a speculative pedagogical figure for a haptic performativity that pocks the seamless surface of homogenised Capitalist subjectivity. Zara Dinnen (Birkbeck, University of London): Female r&b performers have recently been embracing an aesthetic of the cyborg. This paper will argue that performances by artists such as
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ASAP/4 : Genres of the Present (Panel Proposal) Simon Clark, Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher, Daniel Rourke

12th April 2012

Janelle Monae, Beyonc, and Nicki Minaj (live, on record, and in video) represent composite personas. These figures are kinds of avatars: tethered to actual bodies; skewing attention away from those bodies, pushing against the grain (of the voice). They seem to stand in for the failure of the cyborg to materialise as anything other than figure, figurative; and in so being they draw attention to the digital and commercial mechanics that construct a contemporary r&b performance. Rob Gallagher (The London Consortium): The e-pet incarnates a very modern strain of metaphor, whereby domestic animals and electronic gadgets become figures for one another. Analysing the growing array of apps and games based on cultivating and collaborating with virtual creatures, this paper argues that e-pets offer us both a barometer of contemporary attitudes to nature and a perspective on how computers, once associated with the empirical and the impersonal, are increasingly becoming vehicles for embodied interaction, creative expression and affective modulation. Daniel Rourke (Goldsmiths, University of London): "If a cell gets out it could imitate everything on the face of the Earth... and it's not gonna stop!" * Coiled up as DNA or proliferating through digital communication networks, nucleotides and electrical on/off signals figure each other in a coding metaphor with no origin. Tracing the evolution of The Thing over its 70 year history in science-fiction (inc. John W. Campbell's 1938 novella and *John Carpenter's 1982 film), this paper will explore this figure's most terrifying, absolute other quality: the inability of its matter to err. The Thing re-constitutes the contemporary coding paradigm, leaving us with/as an Earthly nature that was always already post-human.

ASAP/4 : Genres of the Present (Panel Proposal) Simon Clark, Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher, Daniel Rourke

12th April 2012

BIOs SC: Simon is a PhD candidate undertaking practice-based research in the Art department at Goldsmiths, University of London. His project explores melancholia, politics and performance through the figure of the zombie. He has performed his jauntily morbid songs and short stories at art venues around the world and has published work in The Undead and Philosophy, Texte Zur Kunst and Incognitum Hactenus. He currently teaches at UCS Ipswich and Goldsmiths. email: sipanache@hotmail.com ZD: Zara is a PhD candidate in the department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, researching representations of the digital in contemporary American culture. She has articles and reviews published or forthcoming in Journal of Narrative Theory, ImageTexT, Journal of American Studies and Textual Practice. Zara is co-organiser of the Contemporary Fiction Seminar at the Institute of English Studies; and Reviews editor at Dandelion. email: zara.dinnen@gmail.com RG: Rob Gallagher is a PhD candidate at the London Consortium. His research concerns videogames and time, and considers how contemporary conceptions of waste, progress, pleasure and identity manifest themselves in digital games and interactive media. Robs writing has appeared in various publications, from The Observer to Critical Quarterly. He is co-editor of murdofleur.org email: bobcgallagher@gmail.com DR: Daniel is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London, undertaking practice-based research in the department of Art. His project interrogates the division between error and mutation through modalities of writing and the digital. His work has appeared in Texte Zur Kunst, Dandelion Journal and is forthcoming in the Journal of Transgressive Culture. Daniel is TA and tutor for Goldsmiths' Art-Writing MFA. email: d.rourke@gold.ac.uk