OB-scene, a live audio/visual performance for photoplethysmograph and sexual arousal
OB-Scene is an audio/visual performance and represents an erotic experience both for the audience and the performer. This project represents an explicit artistic act of remediation where the female body becomes a cyber subject/object of the embodiment of experience and resonates with an ecological sensibility.
OB-scene is conceived as a sound performance where a self-made medical (vaginal) probe is used to transform a female sexual arousal into sounds, intruding the performer’s body. Data are gathered by the probe and transformed lively into sounds through original software coded in Supercollider. In order to trigger the sexual arousal the performer uses a teasing audio that has been studied and made for this specific performance, this audio is not broadcasted to the audience, but represent a hidden artistic element of the whole work.
The sensuous enchantment with our everyday world (with nature but also with objects and in particular technology) moves us to progressively change our actual practice of ethical behaviours. The work aims to take ‘raw ingredients’ from a transparent biological media and to remediate them, in order to accomplish the desire to pass the limits of representation and to achieve authentic and ecologic emotional response from the viewer’s experience. “OB-Scene” does not aim to render transparent or to decode the real, but to free the real from the codes, which seems to enhance the modernist notion of (creative) powers, the male artist-genius and postmodernist concerns for politics of representation.
This performance is very part of a wider movement of women and technology named XenoFeminism (XF) that is emerging. The XF Manifesto introduces the concept of techno-alienation and focuses around the concept of other/diverse desires, new forms of desiring, experiencing something other. XF could be paradoxically defined a feminism for the fluid, the non-human, the diverse. With this premises the approach to cybernetics in this project is intentionally very blurred: the anthropocentrism is substituted by the idea that human agency has some echoes in nonhuman nature and vice versa (Bennet 2010). The body is fused with the technology and not empowered or enhanced by technology itself, body and technology become a unique agent able to create a new way to perceive erotism and sexuality trough sounds and data. The body fused with the technology from the inside works as a medium, a machine coded to enable the audience to sense the arousal data and to immerse in an alienating erotic non-explicit dimension.
The probe adopted is a self-made piece of electronic equipment and it is applied on a sex toy, used only as physical support and not as a teaser. The performer, in fact, does not provide any explicit action on stage. The process of the creation of the probe started with some research on sexual data analysis done in the past and in particular on Master and Johnson’s research into the nature of human sexual response (late ‘50). Different devices and methods include measurement of changes in clitoral, vaginal-artery and vaginal capillary blood flow, bioimpedance etc., have been used to gather data to be then analyzed for different medical research purposes.
The probe created for OB-scene is a vaginal photoplethysmograph (VPP) and its medical version has been used as the main measurement method for over 3 decades to assess female sexual dysfunctions (Heiman 1977; Laan at al. 1995).
One of the physiological changes that occur during female sexual arousal is an increase in vaginal wall blood flow. A light emitter (infrared diode), generates a light that is reflected by the vaginal wall (please notice that this could work in non-vaginal applications) to a photodetector. Changes in the intensity of the reflected light are related to vascular changes that occur in the vaginal tissue; the amount of blood in the tissue affects the amount of light that is reflected or “back-scattered” and therefore that reaches the photocell. The signal used for the performance is the AC signal, which varies with the Vaginal Pulse Amplitude (VPA). During sexual arousal of the female, the increase in blood flow to the vaginal wall creates an increase in the VPA.
The media-archeological art perspective of this project pushed the author to investigate intermedial relations and media historical borrowings across time and media, not only creating a theoretical framework for the concept but through making media and reinventing new uses of obsolete technology in a nonlinear way, as sediment, a layer. Additionally, it is of interest of this research work to explore if a performance could dig into the background reasons why certain technology or discourse or research interest on pleasure and bodies are related to media networks as well as scientific discoveries (Parikka 2012).
The author of this paper is the designer, performer, creator of the technologic aspect and author of the software.
The following should be provided by the venue:
A room possible equipped by mirrors (dressing room, toilets) where is possible to turn lights off. A gallery space can be considered.
A projector suitable for the room
High quality sound diffusion system plus subwoofer (Stereo) and a sound engineer to put the system in place.
A table (2x1mt)
The following will be provided by the artist:
Computer, hardware and software
Audio drive (2 OUT XLR)
Setup time requirement: 45 min
International Metabody Forum, Brunel University (April 2016)
The Politics of Performance and Play. Feminist Matters, Institute for Philosophy University of Leiden July 7 & 8