May 31 - July 5, 2003

Posthuman System #1: Cockroach with Wireless Video

Garnet Hertz

Opening Reception:
Friday, June 13 at 8:00 pm
Media Gallery

Description | System Activation Schedule

Description

This project involves a set of living Giant Madagascan Hissing cockroaches equipped with miniature wireless videocameras on custom-built backpacks. These specialized backpacks are worn by the cockroaches and transmit wireless video to televisions within the gallery space. The cockroaches are contained within a medium-sized terrarium placed on a plinth within the space.

This work is positioned within the context of technology in relationship to contemporary human culture. Posthumanism - which can be defined as a re-working of the limitations of the human form through radical uses of technological means - appears to be primarily concerned with issues of genetics and other efforts to extend and enhance human-oriented life. This work comments on posthumanism through the definition of non-human forms inheriting the title of "posthumans". Although transhumanist efforts will likely enhance human life, it is still most probable that non-human organisms - like the resilient cockroach, for example - will outlast human society.

The cockroach is the ideal posthuman creature: as Jaron Lanier stated in his "A Time Capsule that will survive One Thousand Years in Manhattan" (http://people.advanced.org/~jaron/roach.html):

"The familiar New York City cockroach predates the cityıs geography. It has survived ice ages, earthquakes, famines, and floods. It has watched the dinosaurs come and go. It has resisted determined efforts by mankind to remove it even from individual buildings. It would survive a nuclear attack. It will probably outlive all other contemporary fauna on Manhattan, including humans."

With the cockroach as the centerpiece and controller of the technology, the lines of distinction between pest, pet, friend and foe are blurred. Endowing cockroaches with advanced technology offers a humorous glimpse into the eyes of a hypothetical superhuman cockroach species: one that appropriates the technology of humans and combines it with the advanced survival techniques of the cockroach.