To the Sirens first shalt thou come, who beguile all men whosoever comes to them.
Whoso in ignorance draws near to them and hears the Sirens' voice, he nevermore returns,
that his wife and little children may stand at his side rejoicing, but the Sirens beguile him
with their clear-toned song, as they sit in a meadow, and about them is a great heap of bones
of mouldering men, and round the bones the skin is shrivelling.
(Homer, The Odyssey 12th song, translated by A.T. Murray)
ON THEORETICAL GIRLS AND SOME DEAD STILLS
I sometimes wonder about people who wake up and spend almost the whole day online.
When they go to bed at night, they’ll have almost no organic memories of their own.
If they do this for a long time, you can begin to say that their intelligence is, in a true sense, artificial. Which I guess means sex lives have never been as artificial as they are now.
O32c magazine, 2012 (Douglas Coupland)
In my 1991 essay ”I and AI know” on cyberpunk and virtual reality for the magazine
Cras the future of a VR seemed only like a malfunctioning demonstration of a sophisticated
Coney Island. Eventually one of the major players in cyberspace would become the
flourishing business of webcam forums where girls and women - their names, age, and origin
purely theoretical (thus the title Theoretical Girls) – are turned basic pleasure models for
basic human instincts. However, this growing contemporary concern, that an exchange of
reality for a virtual reality is being established and human feelings become representational,
visual artists’ choice of models through centuries as well as folklore and myths in a modern
setting shone through tales of seduction and deception like the tale of the Sirens of the
Odyssey. These double-natured creatures, though otherworldly, know of the weakness of
human nature and like the sultry appearance of the Sirens and alluring calling of their song,
these Theoretical Girls perform a seducing spectacle of the representation of human feelings –
performed within the notions of ”saint-sinner,” ”virgin (Madonna) - whore”.
So they became the project, the digital transmitted images of them are transformed in a
photographic process creating a new person, one who bears no evident physical reference to
the original webcam model used and who doesn’t refer to the original live-streamed images
or setting thereof. The exhibited images are an introduction to the resulting larger series, a
body of work defined by what Michel Houllebecq described as ”framing”– ” cutting out a zone
from the world, in such a way that it seems to have no exterior.” Detaching image from source
opposes the indexicality of the photographic process, and the exhibited pictures are
photographs only in a technical sense. The photographs are a means to an end directed
toward creating work that defines itself as photo-based work on paper through the final
Since 1989 I’ve worked with photo-based works on paper, first of the series ”Selvoptagelser”
was a 90x330cm print of a cut-up work ”Bathroom ’89”, which was paraphrasing The Last
Supper by Da Vinci. Another series of photographs ”Into The Corruption Of Light” was used
for the 20 oversized postcards, each 100x140cm constituting the 2006 show ”What Became
Of The Nightingale” at Martin Asbaek Projects. This new series is a continuation of exploring
photography as an artistic tool within the premise that I’m not a photographer, but the media
serves as a means to an end.
Claus Rohland 2017
Additional note to Song 12 aka Theoretical Girls and Some Dead Stills
I find that in the moral perspective of the story of the encounter with the sirens lies an allegorical aspect as well. Drawing a comparison to the webcam business as described above, a by-product thereof becomes a flaw in the human condition, a state of mind gradually fostering an alienation and corruption of the ability to exchange natural feelings, intimacy and dedication. An emotional death becomes the result of pretended ecstasy’s singing,…… the alluring of sighs and ecstasy – the crawing for sound and vision in a virtual reality in which endeavor we distort or even destroy the image of the real. Silence is fatal because it is unbearable.So we seek comfort in the noise, the sound of our environment and of cyberspace from its simplest functions to the darkest corners in order to remain in a coherent stream of life, even if it means an exchange of a virtual reality for reality.
Some notes relating to Song 12 of The Odyssey (to be continued)
Adorno’s dismissal of recorded music as the ultimate degradation of modern culture contemplates recorded, processed music as a representation of the self-alienation of music, where production turns into reproduction, part of the general tendency for spectacle and simulation to replace the ‘real’ thing.
Kafka writes “Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence” in his text The Silence Of The Sirens retelling the story of Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens on which Walter Benjamin notes “because for Kafka music and singing are an expression or at least a token of escape, a token of hope which comes to us from the intermediate world – at once unfinished and commonplace, comforting and silly.” (Benjamin, 1968, p. 118).
Freud, in his famous 1920 essay “Beyond the pleasure principle”, observed that in contrast to noisy Eros, death works silently and invisibly seeking to return all life to inorganic inertia.
In “Memento” O. Henry tells the story of a priest who from afar falls in love with a woman, a young dancer. His love for/fascination of her is further objectified in a token (one of the garters she used to throw to the audience when a dancer) he keeps in a box, making him inapt to love a real person (her) who through circumstances coincidentally had fallen in love with him.
Since it was always the object a in the woman that attracted the priest, for his love to emerge it did not really matter whether the beloved was a "fantasy" or "reality"
-a distant dancer in a Broadway show or an innocent country girl.
(Renata Saleci, The Sirens and Feminine Jouissance 1997)