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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

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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Looking for Something to Signify

Something to Signify Gender Performance and Cuban Masculinity in Viva

David Yagüe González

The behaviors and actions that an individual carries out in their daily life and how they are translated by their society overdetermine the gender one might have—or not—according to social norms. However, do the postulates enounced by feminist and queer Western thinkers still maintain their validity when the context changes? Can the performances of gender carry out their validity when the landscape is other than the one in Europe or the United States? And how can the context of drag complicate these matters? These are the questions that this article will try to answer by analyzing the 2015 movie Viva by Irish director Paddy Breathnach.

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The New Imitation Game

The Queer Sinitic Potentialities of Internet Romance Games

Carlos Rojas

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

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

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?

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Tru Leverette and Barbara Mennel

Zélie Asava. Mixed Race Cinemas: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France (New York Bloomsbury, 2017). 216 pp., ISBN: 1501312456 (paperback: $35.96)

Elizabeth Otto and Patrick Rössler, eds. Bauhaus Bodies: Gender, Sexuality, and Body Culture in Modernism’s Legendary Art School (New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019). xl + 345 pp., ISBN: 9781501344787 (hardback, $110), (paperback, $29.95)

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Sade for Sade’s Sake

Inside Paul Chan’s Transmedial Laboratory

Olivier Delers

This article focuses on Paul Chan’s 2007 art project Sade for Sade’s Sake, which brings together a five-hour-long video installation, a number of drawings and collages, and a series of fonts inspired by the Marquis de Sade’s writings called “alternumerics.” I argue that Chan is engaged in a transmedial process that is intensely visual and performative and that actualizes Sade’s aesthetics by reconfiguring the textual logorrhea central to his writing style. In his video installation, Chan imagines a new kind of sexual tableau that seeks to “show it all,” but also turns the larger political statement that his project set out to make into an abstract exploration of forms. In Sade for Sade’s Sake, Chan suggests that Sade is caught in a transmedial loop. Sade’s writings are channeled into different types of visual media that try to convey the nature of his worldview and to capture its essence. In the end, however, images make way for a new kind of Sadean language that is based on the original texts but that also tends toward abstraction and the endless repetition of the same patterns.

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Kuang-Yi Ku

Many cultures have their own systems of alternative medicine, the effectiveness of which cannot always be proven according to contemporary scientific analysis; the use of the tiger penis to increase virility in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is one such practice. While TCM may offer benefits beyond those available through mainstream western medicines, the huge demand for wild animals in TCM poses a threat to endangered species. Can a new interpretation of TCM resolve the conflict between health, culture, and environmental conservation? The Tiger Penis Project proposes the use of emerging biotechnologies to create artificial animal parts for Chinese medical applications both to prevent the further destruction of animals and traditional cultures and to provide more possibilities for the coexistence of human society and the natural environment.