Chimera of Arezzo, Etruscan, c. 400 BCE.
Chimera of Arezzo, Etruscan, c. 400 BCE. Bronze. 78.5 x 129 cm. Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana. Photo Antonio Quattrone, Florence.

The Chimera

The term Chimera has had a long and rich history dating back to Greek mythology with the most famous definition defined by Homer in the Odyssey where he describes it as “a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.”

However, can such chimeras really exist? As Berard Andrieu points out that “the chimerical body raises the problem of identity. How can one be such a body, at the same time, a lion, a dragon and a goat?”(1).

The Rise of the Technological Chimera

Project Overview:

The project, ‘The Obscure Objects of Desire and the Rise of the Technological Chimera’ looks at how media technologies are remediated. How such technologies manifesting as objects emit a presence which is not singularly transparent but is in a sense haunted. Such technologies have their own evolutionary transcended processes which when integrated with human presence configures a new reality imbued with ‘technological chimeras’.

Part of this rise of the Technological Chimera has to do with how machine and human have begun to fold onto each other. In turn, this has created what I refer to as a ‘second skin’. It is through this new skin that we have begun to access memory and identity. A possible endgame to all this may be less dramatic than we had originally thought. For it is not the machine, which will rise up to embrace and simulate the complex nuances which define humanity, but the exact reverse. We will, in turn, succumb to the machine’s own limitations, adapting to its own vision and language of what it means to be human.

About the Project:

The sixth and final installation of ‘The Obscure Objects of Desire and the Rise of the Technological Chimera’ is called the ‘Chimera’, which is made up of looped video segments of my head and feet, projected onto two separate skinned TV monitors at either end of the Hybrid Sculptural Object.

A collection of circuit boards separate the two monitors which are spaced some six feet apart. Visitors are not quite sure if the boards are operational, except for the occasional blinking of a red and green led inferring this could be possible. Also, two distinct audio tracks can be heard – one referencing the head, and the other, the feet.

Thoughts on the Chimera

Media artist Les Levine in discussing our relationship to media technology said it had become a “system that synthesizes “man with his technology ” and that “in this system, the people are the “ software” and “the circuit is open” (2).

Or as Katherine Hayles further explains “the overlay between the enacted and the represented bodies is no longer a natural inevitability but a contingent production, mediated by a technology that has become so entwined with the production of identity that it can no longer meaningfully be separated from the human subject” (3).

John Naccarato, Chimera, The Obscure Objects of Desire and the Rise of the Technological Chimera: Towards Death and the Other Exhibit, video clip,  AXENEO7 and DAIMON, Gatineau, QC, August 29th to September 4th, 2010

Text and ideas originally created and published as part of my MFA Thesis, 2010. Specific segments have been revised and updated for this post. John Naccarato, 2018

(1) Bernard Andrieu, Embodying the Chimera: Biotechnology and Subjectivity

(2) Les Levine,Contact: A Cybernetic Sculpture, 1969

(3) N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, 1999

Further Reading: