Linqox Criss on Machines, Living and Otherwise

January 17 – April 16, 2018

Linqox Criss on Machines, Living and Otherwise (2018) by Amanda Turner Pohan features sculpture, scent, sound and video. The third iteration in a five-part cycle of installations, the work details the journey of Linqox Criss as she slips between digital and physical embodiment. Linqox Criss is a female-presenting avatar created in the online world Second Life in 2005 by a queer, cis-male user. At its peak, Second Life was robust with 21.5 million users, having since dwindled to 60,000. As avatars can be created, but never die, Linqox Criss has remained a ghost in the server room, a revenant detached from the body of her user.

The cycle of installations both accumulates and loses data, like dust on a spinning computer fan. A self-referential material index of work is created by both adding new components and recycling pieces from previous iterations.

For this iteration, Linqox has been reactivated and teleported to a Second Life location known as ‘Penney’s Transformation Laboratory of Research & Development’, where video clips from the first and second iterations of the cycle play on computer monitors. As Linqox observes herself in the former videos, she accumulates self-knowledge while distancing herself from her prior experiences. If the avatar is an extension of the self, what does it demand or inhibit, make available to the senses, and allow or deny the body? Through these gestures of self-observation, Linqox interrogates the deep structural code of her own bodily form and its limitations within her environment.

Linqox is accompanied by two new characters: Alcibiades and the ‘voice inside the laboratory’. As the three avatars move through ‘Penney’s Laboratory’, they read excerpts from Chilean neuroscientists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s 1972 book, Autopoiesis: The Organization of The Living, which posits a living system as operationally closed, an entirely self-referential, homeostatic machine. Autopoiesis was discovered by the neuroscientists while studying the mitochondria of a living cell. Everything about the cells’ reproduction is coded within its DNA, a notion that could apply to an avatar’s programming code which is called upon to regenerate the character with each reboot. How does such self-referential circularity works in a space like Second Life, which blurs embodiment so profoundly, and how this may apply to knowing, feeling, and empathizing with one another.

The video plays on loop from an LCD screen monitor which lays flat, facing upwards, at one end of a boardroom table. A medical-use syringe pump sits at the other end of the table, drawing air in and out from a vape pen. The vape pen is filled with a custom e-liquid – the perfumed formula of which was developed from an algorithm of Linqox Criss’ HTML code, using the avatar’s hypothetical bodily metrics as a bridge for physical empathy. This perfumed Linqox-E-liquid is intermittently disseminated into the air as a cloud of scented vapor through a clear plastic tube. The drop ceiling tiles above the boardroom table are covered with particles of pulverized LCD laptop screens and shredded EconoFlex C55 Medium Firm Foam, which served as bench and a column in previous installations.

In Linqox Criss on Machines, Living and Otherwise, the voice of Alcibiades is played by Amanda S. Evans, who will read her original translation of an excerpt from the Platonic text Alcibiades and Phaedo in Ancient Greek. Oli Rodriguez, a queer, trans man whose hormonal balance has been altered by testosterone, plays Linqox Criss. The ‘voice inside the laboratory’ is played by Itziar Barrio, who reads excerpts from the text Autopoiesis: The Organization of The Living in Spanish and English. The video also features a new work by composer Kamala Sankaram using Jules Massenet’s opera Don Quichotte as cellular material to generate a fractalized composition, repeating in loop a line from the final aria “this is the island of dreams”. Additional audio tracks are composed by Chance McNiff. Citations in the video’s script from Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (1972, D. Reidel Publishing Company) by Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, Updating To Remain the Same (2016, MIT Press) by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy (Inferno), and Plato’s Alcibiades.

Special thanks to Sean Bequeath at Harvard Apparatus, Itziar Barrio, Amanda S. Evans, Evan Kachadourian, Pam Liou and Andy Sahlstrom, Oliverio Rodriguez and Kamala Sankaram for their patience and generous assistance in the production of this body of work, and to Mira Dayal, Natasha Marie Llorens and Rachel Vera Steinberg. Very special thanks to the entire Second Life community.