Saturday, 9 August 2014

Techno-Eroticism and Tetsuo:The Iron Man

            Tetsuo gets that machines are sexy. Or, rather, that technic-productive forces occur within the greater context of the libidinal economy, the vast interconnected membrane of desiring-production that drives existence forward; The Will to Power, id, libido, taken as a macro-whole which includes all productive activity.
            For a brief summary, I suggest consulting everyone’s favourite consensus reality generator, although it isn’t a long film if you want to watch it first (doubleplus NSFW). I will assume that the reader has a cursory knowledge of the film, at least.

            Tetsuo breaks down all of the barriers between the organic and the mechanic. The Salaryman first notes his transformation when he comes across a shard of metal growing out of his cheek, while the Metal Fetishist drives a piece of metal into his leg. The entire course of the film is the Salaryman’s transformation into the Iron Man, the re-rendering of his flesh into metal, but metal that behaves like something living. The metallic sounds that replace the noise of eating when he feeds his girlfriend, the sodomy nightmare, the phallic drill- the metal is almost parodying the organic, demonstrating its absurdities and limitations. The technological infiltrates the ‘ordinary’ human world, stripping away the cultural edifice, reducing it all down to mere libidinal drive, to mere process without direction.

            Like I said, the film gets the sexual element of technic-production. The way the camera plays over the body of the car at the beginning of the film in a quasi-pornographic manner, taking in its lines and curves. The entire sequence of events of the film begins with a bizarre masturbatory act with the Metal Fetishist penetrating the self-inflicted wound in his leg with a rusty rod of iron; following on from this, there is the illicit sexual encounter between the Salaryman and his girlfriend after they’ve run over and left for dead the Fetishist. It is the illicitness of these sexual acts that bring about the occurrences of the film, almost as if the breaching of the traditional structure of sexuality and production allows the true face of desiring-production to come to the fore in a revelatory manner. That is, the initial (and initiatory) upsetting of the accepted order of the libidinal economy allows for the techno-erotic heart of said order to be displayed to us as it really is.

            Oddest of all is that the Salaryman accepts this new way of being. Of course, for much of the initial stages of his transformation, he reacts with perfectly understandable horror as his body mutates of its own volition into something completely other; this being said, he does not lose control over his body, for what control did he ever have over it? He is, rather, forced to accept his lack of control over his body, that the process now occurring is beyond anything he could ever resist or influence. All he can do, and does do, is accept it and move along with the transformation. Using the old Hermetic dictum of ‘As Above, So Below’ (that is, the microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm), and taking the Salaryman to be the microcosm of the order of desiring-production at large, the conclusions are disturbing. We, as components of the mechanisms of the desiring-machines, cannot resist the process as we are a part of that process (though this does not, necessarily, discount the possibility of Exit, if such an Exit is total enough). I’ve quoted Nick Land on this before, but it’s a good enough quote to warrant its partial repetition: ‘Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control.’

            Consider the films conclusion, in which the Salaryman and Fetishist have embraced and become one, transforming into (I’m assuming this scene is meant to be comical) a gigantic bio-mechanoid phallus, and then setting out to turn the whole world into metal. After the merging has occurred, this line is said: ‘Our love can destroy this whole fucking world!’ Is this…a positive message? A happy ending? The two main characters, after all of the horror and trauma, have accepted their new way of being and now seek to rip apart the world, mutating it into metal, rust and then finally dust. This is suggestive, I feel, of the possibilities that technology, in all its dynamism and innovation, can offer: everything can change. Everything. The forces of production cannot be successfully limited, they will continue to operate, to self-improve, to increase efficiency, and like it or not, we (or, most of us at any rate), are going to have to move with it. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a weird journey up ahead…


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