WHO'S IN YOUR GENES »
You don't hear much talk about Cyborgs these days. Not the way you did in the early 90s when the sensationalist possibilities of science seemed too good to not be true.
A body free of disease.
A body free of aging.
A body free of its most limiting appendages.
A body, well, just free.
All of these delicious prospects fell in some demi-accessible space between science and fiction. Couple it all with the convincing jargon so often encountered in scientific literature and even the loftiest claims seem irrefutable. Add the aesthetics of tight leather and sensual bodies and now we're talking about a future that is just down right, well, f**kable, yes, but also very fashionable.
Unfortunately, the future didn't quite shape up to everything we had hoped for. The 90s became the 2000s, and en lieu of our busty visions of Motoko Kusanagi-type women waking the streets everywhere, the future delivered obesity. Tons of it. Women who did fit the Kusanagi profile were underwhelming. They weren't cybernetically enhanced; they were surgically enhanced. Somehow botox and liposuction didn't quite equate to the sensuous femme fatale of the future. Yes, the future did turn out to be artificially enhanced as promised, but its best application seemed to only be for placement on a reality show.
Ghost in the Shell enjoyed a special re-release in January of 2010, but the Cyborg aesthetic has yet to enjoy a true mainstream revival. Of course, it is also possible that a missing revival is due to the aesthetics of the future having not yet been relegated to the dungeon of a forgotten past. In fact, on the corner of Crescent and Sherbrooke in Downtown Montreal, behind the windows of a department store is, well, not so much an upgrade of Cyborg Fashion; more like an Uppity-Grade. The name of this fashion store? Exposé
It is here, in Downtown Montreal, that Cyborg fashion and the lost sexiness of the future stands in perfect view. Thankfully, this exposé doesn't feel like a historical piece. Instead it rings like a long awaited declaration that the future is finally here. And yes it is garbed in expensive threads. These future dolls eschew our wireless obsessions in favor of retro-wires and antiquated dot-matrix printers. Even the printer-paper had those perforated pain-in-the-ass edges demanding to be removed. Wires? Dot-matrix printers? Paper? Now before you laugh, consider this: These antiques aren't there to say "future", but rather Back to the Future. Back to when this WAS the future. In other words, this isn't so much a revival as it is a reboot.
RetroTechno, if you will.
So, yeah, the Cyborgs are back. In Canada. Specifically, Montreal. What's so cool is that despite the RetroTechno appliances, they appear to be anything but antiquated. This futuristic display is so well done that it's easy to forget that wires and paper aren't exactly tokens of tomorrow. But there are a few deviations worth noting. For instance, when the Terminator donned sunglasses that was only for show. In real life Cyborgs don't need sunglasses anymore than they need eyes... and these Exposé mannequins don't either. Consequently, a large black layer of X-Ray paper smothers their eye sockets. Why? Trying to answer that question is the fun part. Especially if we allow ourselves a few existential indulgences that are typical in Cyborg Philosophy. Here goes...
CY-PHI THEORY 1 : : : The X-Ray shades are to "see" inside our shell bodies that presumably make us human. The mannequins are looking at us and inside us!
CY-PHI THEORY 2 : : : Though the mannequins are behind glass, this is meant to be read as a looking glass - a reflection of our own self-reflection. After all, the mannequins are all X-ray exposed in selected areas, revealing a skeletal structure that is identical to the humans they represent. Is the statement here that we are also mannequins? Or maybe these mannequins are also human. Maybe the two questions are redundant and the terms "human" and "mannequin" are synonyms. Ooooohhhhh.
CY-PHI THEORY 3 : : : Perhaps these mannequins are looking into themselves and we are being challenged to believe that these mannequins are sentient. Aaaaaahhhhh.
This is, of course, carnival conjecture. Fun speculation. Healthy food for thought. That's what quasi-scientific cyborg philosophy is all about. Like the mannequins behind that glass, cyborg philosophy is a form of secular spirituality. And like their transcendent fashion, it is unruly, revolutionary and disobedient in the face of any unwanted, un-needed and unnecessary rules or restrictions. The mannequins are flamboyant, fashionable, free and, yes, free-willed. Sure, they didn't dress themselves, but it sure appears as if they did. They echo all of the liberation aspirations of the 90s. And yet, because they are mere mannequins, they also speak to the anxiety and angst that none of this is real. Or it is real... and that's the problem. They have a restrictive glass window. We have a restrictive glass ceiling. They are trapped in a box. We are trapped in a cubicle. They were manufactured and, for the most part, so are we. Underneath all that CyberFiction is a reality that is unbearably repressive and depressing. Put the fashion back on, take it back off and you oscillate from rage against the machine to just silent rage.
Maybe that's what killed the Cyborg and its fashion: The Machine. Not "Da Man", "Da Machine." That damn Machine called Capitalism. It won. How did it win? No, not by hunting down the loner human anarchist, but by taking all of his gadgets of the revolution and, well, "revolutionizing" them. You know, the "revolutionary new iPad" came not long after the "revolutionary new iPod." For a time there, Apple even had the neon colored CyberGoth campaign going there - just to make sure we knew they were talking to us. Sadly, fashion is now the only fossil of the CyberPunk revolution.
This isn't to say that CyberPunk or Cyborgs are dead. Or even deleted. Nah. Like a mind uploaded into the Net, it's moving around, undetected. Not always seen, but always there. Facebook has a few CyberPunk groups, some even still have some activity going on. Websites, albeit sometimes outdated, can also be found holding their heads above the data cloud. And, of course, music has done a good job of constantly slicing, dicing and refusing the Cyborg Sound with the DNA of something else, like African drums. Yeah. The Cyborg still has a pulse. Occasionally, it makes an appearance. Like in the windows of Exposé.