Drifting, Browsing, Cruising
Theodoulos Polyviou (2020) Thoughts on: cruising and isolation
I know cruising might not seem relevant to most people reading this. Especially right now. To me cruising is more a point of departure than just a sexual act. It’s a platform where different modes of queering can be enacted, whether physically or digitally and in doing so disrupt homogeneous normativity. Lately, I have been thinking about the relationship between the online and offline with regards to cruising and more specifically the relevance of geography in this unified online ‘communal’ we have all retreated to, following the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Let’s be honest, we are all equally stressed and horny. Us single ones are. So this creates the urge to indulge ourselves in online exploration whether through a dating app, Instagram or an online rave with kinky cam-rooms taking on the role of a physical darkroom. On the one hand, escaping the restraining spatial and psychological boundaries of our apartments through online chatting or FaceTime somehow maintains our sanity. It momentarily suspends our status as a marginal individual, and new communities arise every day.
But my question is to what extent are these communities sustainable, and more importantly, inclusive? How can we disrupt the standardization that might arise from these fixated ways of communication?
How do we define community?
How can we escape it?
How can we become lost?
To get lost, as opposed to hiding or being discreet and transparent, predicates some degree of empowerment. In an era of an increasingly hetero/homonormative political landscape dominated by neo-liberal processes, to be lost is to disrupt and to disorganise.
A country’s political economy expects productive individuals to run it and sustain it. To be disoriented in ”control societies”, as Gilles Deleuze has called it, implicates one’s less efficient performance within them. But being disoriented can also precipitate new forms of efficiency, ones that resonate with the “possible rendezvous” explained by Guy Debord in his Theory of Dérive.
Derived from the Latin word derivare, dérive essentially means to divert flows of water. In Debord’s work, it is considered the critical practice that reconfigures the commodified city. It is a form of experimental behaviour in an urban society; in a society of an “attention economy” (as mentioned by Jonathan Beller in The Cinematic Mode of Production), where the land is merely a backdrop against which rituals of capitalism collapse, very much like a Safari browser overlaying your default MacBook landscape background.
Like cruising, dérive is a way of moving/drifting within the proximity of a given area with no specific destination. In this case, the goal is to get lost and entangled in queer togetherness, to cause and confront spatio-temporal disturbances, turning the city into a political field, a task historically tied to racial and sexual minorities. How would Debord elaborate on the idea of virtual drifting? What analysis can we develop to acquire “other uses for space besides the functional” (Mackenzie Wark)? How can we employ modes of dérive in location-based dating apps and in doing so re-conceptualise contemporary definitions of digital community and sociality, embrace the spontaneous communication of accidental meetings and prevent the transmogrification of emotional impact and collective consciousness to “spiritual technologies”?
We need a successor to Alan Turing, (who is not necessarily white or British or a man, or even an individual). Someone to invent new technologies that disable old ones, that virtually mediate intimacies, that allow users to switch from browsing to drifting and back, that decentralize search engines that are responsible for creating peripheries. We need technologies that put in practice what Mark W. Turner mentions in Backward Glances: "an amorphous constellation of connections that we tend to map using routine geographies but which can only ever be tentative and certainly not static because they are frequently shifting".
We need more terms that have no meaning, terms that mean too much. In 1982, William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” in his book Burning Chrome. The establishment of the term triggered an immense amount of research around the socialities of virtual spaces. Now we need new words to allow us to get stuck in new socio-political complexities. A linguistic Xanax, a post-digital dérive that would allow us to engage with liminalities that negotiate dominant culture.
This doesn’t mean opposing technology. Even though it has been a dominant factor in the commodification of sexuality and intimacy and privatization of desire, it does have the potential to dovetail disorganization skills and mediation of bodies in ways that generate new modes of spatial, narratological production and break the binary division of inclusion-exclusion, online-offline, logged in-logged out, basic-premium.
I am inherently lost.
I have dyslexia and often suffer from faulty memory, meaning I can only remember so many names, dates, or events. I probably won’t remember some of the aforementioned in a few months’ time. Does this make me any less proactive and innovative? Perhaps it does, but it also allows me to find new deficient and irrational ways for artistic production that carry queer consciousness and sensibilities. On a social level it gives me the freedom to become an interlocutor in rituals of collective disorientation in which interactions reaffirm names or reminiscences.
Theodoulos Polyviou (2020) Thoughts on: being lost and disoriented
Francesco Colonna (1499) Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Aldus Manutius
iphone screenshot, courtesy of the artist
Zhahai Stewart (1988) Computer Blessing
Blessings on this fine machine,
May its data all be clean.
Let the files stay where they're put,
Away from disk drives keep all soot.
From its screen shall come no whines,
Let in no spikes on power lines.
As oaks were sacred to the Druids,
Let not the keyboard suffer fluids.
Disk Full shall be nor more than rarity,
The memory shall not miss its parity.
From the modem shall come wonders,
Without line noise making blunders.
May it never catch a virus,
And all its software stay desirous.
Oh let the printer never jam,
And turn my output into spam.
I ask of Eris, noble queen,
Keep Murphy far from this machine.
Theodoulos Polyviou (2019) Sorry I am not a pro subscriber, courtesy of the artist
Theodoulos Polyviou (2018) Dream Love, courtesy of the artist
Kazuo Shiraga (1955), Challenging Mud, 3rd Execution, courtesy Ashiya City Museum of Art & History
Theodoulos Polyviou is a visual artist and curator based in London.
By focusing on the architectural narratives that outline queer spaces, Theodoulos’s practice investigates the ways in which politics and social structures, necessitating geographical specificity, translate digitally to produce political disorganisation and discussion.