Disruption - 10th Annual Honi Soit Writing Competition

How to fall in love with an image

How do we love an image? By becoming-image.

Art courtesy: Karen Okuda.

Digital photographs are now used for attracting others. Taken at dizzying speeds, the heap of images keep piling higher and higher, contributing to, and fuelling the fiery cores of social media and dating apps. Entombed in these images are the flesh of bodies, which have been flattened and then expunged into the digital and virtual realm. Donna Haraway would be pleased to know that the body does not end at the skin anymore: identities, bodies, and personas spill out and beyond the skin of the body, intertwining and overlapping in psychic, digital spaces, such as our fantasies, or Tinder. Flicking left, flicking right, we reveal layers upon layers of digital body-images that never seem to end or die, and as Hito Steyerl has noted, this digital wreckage piles sky-high. But as we flick and scroll, we come across that one Image. Our eyes slowly trace its beautiful form, we increasingly become infatuated by its allure. How then do we approach this beautiful Image, let alone fall in love? I offer a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Preparation

The Image currently exists within the phone screen as code, energy, and light. As we are now just flesh and blood, we cannot talk to the Image, they cannot even see us. If we were to approach the Image, as we are now, we would destroy our own phones. The glass of the screen would shatter, and our flesh would become bruised. So, the very first step is to open the camera on our phone. With this, we can begin our transformation into an image.

Step 2: Create your own image

Just like how a peacock performs a courtship display, we too must ruffle and flaunt our feathers for the lens of the camera. Start the photographic courtship ritual by sourcing the best kinds of lighting, perhaps during the rare Golden Hour, and then pose and mould your body into a form. Maybe tilt your head down and at an angle. And then take the picture. As the camera shutters, the traces of this performance will be frozen in time and then flattened into pixels. Edit, Facetune, or use filters. Carefully trim, cultivate, and care for your image. Sometimes the mass of pixels does not look like your flesh, but this is normal. The machine of the camera is not supposed to capture material flesh. Instead, as Rosalind Krauss argues, the lens mediates and usurps, it reflects and refracts reality. It is of you, but not you. Repeat as many times as you want. Curate the best images for your digital persona.

Step 3: Woo the Image

Now that we are Images, we should try and make contact with the Image you have a crush on. Log on via Tinder, Instagram, or whatever, and touch the keys on the phone, woo the Image with your way with words.

Art: Karen Okuda.

Step 4: Have Sex with the Image

Risqué and sexy images, or nudes, are perceived as sexualised flesh and body, rather than light and pixels behind the material screen. Roland Barthes said that love erases the weight and the material of the image. But now, so too do nudes. The nude is not a body, but in the age of sexting and internet pornography, the image has a heart-pink and soft-mist lustre that glows intoxicatingly. When exposed to this hallucinatory succubus cloud, the nude image is perceived as no longer material, but pure sexual body and energy. It is a real spectre. The nude image continues to live on within psychic and digital realms, floating in the mind or caged into the phone, until it is of use.

So, consensually, receive a nude image from your beloved Image, and then send your own nude back to them.

Step 5: Becoming Image-Flesh

As you continue to fall in love with the Image, we should alter our bodies to become our digital image selves. If we want to look like our online personas, Facetuned images, fashion models, Instagram Bratz filters, Kim Kardashian, or K-POP idols, we can do so with technology and cosmetic surgery. Cut incisions, where you please, and slide silicone or fat into the holes. The flesh-silicone cyborg body develops a semi-holographic patina which acts as a magical projector to externalise our desired image. Our flesh is becoming-image, we are made image-flesh.

Art: Karen Okuda.

Step 6: Make an Image-Baby

Go to http://www.morphthing.com/. At the top of the website it asks, “What will my baby look like with a celebrity parent?”. The website answers their own question by telling us to use their software to find out. However, if you have a beloved Image that you care about, then you should reproduce with them.

Once you have gotten to that point in the relationship, merge your image with the Image you love. You will be able to reproduce an image-baby with your beloved.

Last step: Becoming-Image

This step-by-step guide is circular. It is a continuous process of becoming-image. Becoming-image is a gerund, the noun form of the verb, “to become an image.”Becoming-image, therefore, has no end — it is a continuous process of curation, transformation, manipulation, hallucination, but becoming-real nonetheless. 

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