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Editor's Introduction

Screening Transgression

Andrew J. Ball

The final issue of Screen Bodies Volume 6 offers readers an ideal combination of the diverse kinds of work we feature, from a macroscopic theory that proposes a new discipline, to a set of articles that rigorously examine a small number of artworks with respect to a shared topic, to a piece of curatorial criticism on a recent media arts exhibition. The articles collected here offer a fitting cross section of the topics and media we cover, discussing such varied subjects as prehistoric art, Pink Film, artificial intelligence, and video art.

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Embodied Liberation

The Female Reception of Oshima Nagisa's International Co-Productions

Yuta Kaminishi

Abstract

Oshima Nagisa's international co-productions, which include the pornographic film In the Realm of the Senses and the war drama with homoerotic themes Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, were noted as the emergence of his female audience. How did this reported demographic change of the audience from male-centered to female-oriented relate to sexualized bodies on screen? In their roundtable discussion about sexual liberation, feminists found emancipatory power from patriarchal society in the face of the actor who played Abe Sada. Girls praised queerness that disrupted heteronormativity in David Bowie's performance in their film reviews. Focusing on the reception of the films within feminists’ discourse and girls’ culture, this article argues that the female audience created political significance of the films by interpreting the bodies as embodied liberation.

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Andrew J. Ball and Aleksandr Rybin

The cover of this issue of Screen Bodies features the digital work “Crypto Queen” by restlessperson (Aleksandr Rybin), which the artist has minted as an NFT. We spoke with Rybin about the subject matter of his work, connections between digital and analog art, and the future of NFTs. His work is available on KnownOrigin.

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Editor's Introduction

The Affective Modalities of Media and Technology

Andrew J. Ball

The six essays in this in this issue of Screen Bodies explore what we might call the affective modalities of media, that is, each author examines the potential of emerging and traditional media to transform individual and collective relations through the strategic use of embodied affective experience. Three essays in the issue focus on new and emerging technology. In, “The iAnimal Film Series: Activating Empathy Through Virtual Reality,” Holly Cecil examines the potential power of virtual reality to generate empathy in users. In particular, she looks at the way animal advocacy organizations combine documentary film and virtual reality to communicate the embodied experience of living and dying in a factory farm to provoke feeling and widespread opposition to the industry.

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“Banal Apocalypse”

An Interview with Author Ta-wei Chi on the New Translation of The Membranes

Jane Chi Hyun Park and Ta-wei Chi

Abstract

This interview is based on a series of email exchanges in November 2019 between Taiwanese writer and scholar Ta-wei Chi and Korean American scholar Jane Chi Hyun Park about Chi's queer speculative novella, The Membranes. The first section provides a summary of the novella, which was recently translated into English by Ari Heinrich. The second section paints a picture in broad brush strokes of the contexts in which Chi wrote The Membranes—taking into consideration key cross-cultural influences and critical reception in Taiwan in the 1990s. It also examines the cultural and political relevance of Chi's creative predictions about the future within the present historical moment. Finally, it explores afterlives for the novella in the form of sequels and possible cinematic adaptations.

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Andrew J. Ball

I am pleased to begin the final issue of the year with a very special announcement. Screen Bodies is modifying its editorial direction and the kind of work it will feature. Many of our readers will already have a sense of these changes, made evident by the new Aims and Scope section we made available online earlier this summer, and by the journal's new subtitle, The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology. As these indicate, the foundational commitments of the journal remain unchanged; however, moving forward will we intensify our focus on new media art, technology studies, and the interface of the sciences and the humanities. We will continue to examine the cultural, aesthetic, ethical, and political dimensions of emerging technologies, but with a renewed attention to such areas as intermediality, human–machine interface, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, generative art, smart environments, immersive and interactive installations, machine learning, biotechnology, computer science, digital culture, and digital humanities. The journal will continue to prioritize matters of the body and screen media, both in terms of representation and engagement, but will emphasize research that critically reexamines those very concepts, as, for example, in the case of object-oriented feminism's nonanthropocentric approach, which asks us to rethink what we mean by bodies and embodiment.

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Introduction

Toward a Queer Sinofuturism

Ari Heinrich, Howard Chiang, and Ta-wei Chi

This special issue on “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to explore how artists and writers working across various media in Sinophone contexts use science to envision—and indeed to fabulate—non-normative gender and erotic expressions in relation to the corporeal future of humanity. By investigating visions of the future that incorporate queerness and creative applications of computer and biotechnology, “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to counter pervasive techno-Orientalist discourses, such as those discourses in the Blade Runner movies (Ridley Scott, 1982; and Denis Villeneuve, 2017) that frame “Asian” futures as strictly dystopian—and heteronormative by default. What happens, this issue of Screen Bodies asks, if we simultaneously destabilize techno-Orientalist narratives of the future while queering assumptions about the heteronormativity so often inscribed upon that future in mainstream iterations and embodiments? What kinds of fabulous fabulations might emerge?

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The New Imitation Game

The Queer Sinitic Potentialities of Internet Romance Games

Carlos Rojas

Abstract

Taking as its starting point the “original” variant of Alan Turing's famous “imitation game” (in which a test subject attempts to differentiate, based purely on textual output, between a man and a woman), this article considers the ways in which gender and sexuality are simulated in the contemporary genre of virtual romance or dating video games. The article focuses on three Sinitic games, each of which strategically queers this predominantly heteronormative genre. In queering desire, moreover, these Sinitic games simultaneously suggest ways in which Chinese society itself may also be strategically queered.

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On Sinofuturism

Resisting Techno-Orientalism in Understanding Kuaishou, Douyin, and Chinese A.I.

Yunying Huang

Abstract

Dominant design narratives about “the future” contain many contemporary manifestations of “orientalism” and Anti-Chineseness. In US discourse, Chinese people are often characterized as a single communist mass and the primary market for which this future is designed. By investigating the construction of modern Chinese pop culture in Chinese internet and artificial intelligence, and discussing different cultural expressions across urban, rural, and queer Chinese settings, I challenge external Eurocentric and orientalist perceptions of techno-culture in China, positing instead a view of Sinofuturism centered within contemporary Chinese contexts.

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Queer Sinofuturism

The Aberrant Movements and Posthumanist Mutations of Body, Identity, and Matter in Lu Yang's Uterus Man

Gabriel Remy-Handfield

Abstract

In this article, I consider posthumanist and techno-scientific aesthetics in Lu Yang's short film Uterus Man (2013), a film in which a male superhero is interrogating the capacities of a body to mutate, affect, and to be affected. Profoundly influenced by Japanese popular cultural forms such as manga and anime, the artist also draws on sources ranging from Buddhism to developments in neuroscience and biology. I will use the work of post-Deleuzian thinkers Luciana Parisi and David Lapoujade to investigate how the different transformations of the body shown in Uterus Man chart the unpredictable capacity for bodies and matter to mutate in contemporary techno-aesthetic landscapes. In its ambiguity, can Uterus Man contribute to the emergence of a queer Sinofuturism? And what kind of future does the perverse superhero of Uterus Man represent?