On David West's Discharged Interchanges
by Joseph Nechvatal


In our era of the capitalist circulation of commodity sex-signs, David West's rendered fields of libidinous explosiveness seem to have displaced, at least for the moment of looking at them, protoplasmic sexual audacity in favor of a hypothetical libertine version of some vaguely remembered sexual outburst; now re-exploded, imploded, manipulated and refigured. And so one wonders if West's program of orgasmic producing simulacrum is an uplifting supplication similar in manner to how antediluvian groups attempted to deal with the embryonic forces of their universe through excess, ceremony, and immolation in that, seemingly, West's sex/pop/energy simulations work to make the sexually charged body again imaginable via an inchoate stimulant called 'art'. Thus what distinguishes West's art is not it's objectifying tendency towards the body via semi-immateriality per se, but that tendency's calculated justification and embodiment as eerie art pleasure, now sanctioned under the banner of an art extravagance. This means that West's rendered sex/pop/energy art operates inexhaustibly and on demand towards the dissolution of "politically correct" sexual myth, and hence can be conceived of as a means of a passionately quasi-perverse renewal. Consequently, West's sexually intoning art leads us ourselves to sexual rejuvenation and away from banal notions of lascivious repetition/boredom.

If his art looks like something we've only glimpsed with eyes closed fleetingly in bed in it's efforts to appropriate the free floating orgasmic signifier by wiping out the myths that make sex legible, then his sex/pop/energy adroitness begins a process of erasure that soon moves us beyond the defunct and exhausted. So long as his sex/pop/energy fabrications can befuddle us undisturbed by any repression there is no stopping them or, by implication, us. Hence I am delighted to see his truncated sex/pop/energy fabrications proceed to blast away prior pretexts and prior exploitive rationalities so as to bring us closer, not to a sexual "truth", a category long ago exploded, but to the denuded realization of our own coercive animus, now purified of all non-fantastical delusions, including, finally, our own bodies inelastic non-plasticity.

But into the exploded field of West's art fabrications rushes what? Ethereal concepts which are impossible to defend as strictly rational? Mawkish hypothetical fabrications? An emancipation-type state of being? Or an urge to devastate one belief after another in a relentless impulse towards irrationality in the service of sexual desire?


In the future will notions of protoplasmic sex conducted by our meat-puppet seem quaint? More fundamentally, is West's program of sex/pop/energy prevarication made vigorous by it's non-protoplasmic and non-mimetic subtlety? If West's non-protoplasmic fabrications are as much of a gull as a counteraction to macho and/or feminist posturing, then will their cataclysmic impulse give us humans the courage to be less dishonest and more effectual in our protoplasmic encounters? To do so West's program of sex/pop/energy prevarication must not revive anachronistic romantic postures or else become depleted, succumbing to its own process of humor (and in that process merely re-evoking the protoplasmic signs it had intended to de-simulate). Hence, West's agenda must not only see all protoplasmic sexual energy non-romantically, but to see through all protoplasmic sexual energy. And that it does. Indeed within the borders of it's non-protoplasmic spectacle, West's project of sexual energy does just that by automatically hastening the process of the erasure of all lingering romanticism in terms of our puniest sexual responses as it wields and enlarges our own nullifying influences on our sexual fantasies. What makes his project's non-protoplasmic gaze so devastating then is not it's sweep, but it's penetration. West's sex/pop/energy fabrications see through anyone who would sees through them, because they have seen through themselves already, not to undo themselves of course, but to try to constitute themselves as undying.

However, to describe West's sex/pop/energy fabrications as a perverted non-protoplasmic force that indiscriminately kills with humor so as to live is to mistake it's brawny sway for simple anti-protoplasmic autocracy. Rather, his sex/pop/energy fabrications are only anti-protoplasmicly autocratic in their resistant and illustrious visual difficulty and in their paean to flourishing gesticulation. But that is why, I think, West's paradoxical intention towards the body is to half erase it so as to re-establish its energetic crux. Here we must recall that paradox's ideal is to denude the world of every false anthropomorphic value by devastating any projective concept it encounters until there is nothing left but paradoxical energy. So when West's sex/pop/energy fabrications show that we are no longer contemptuous of our leaving behind own protoplasmic sexual values we ourselves will no longer be forced to keep on being ironic in order to distinguish ourselves from the nullity that finally underlies most sexual relationships.

Such an interpretation of West's sex/pop/energy fabrications exemplify their potentiality for suggesting disembodied states of being by avoiding the insensibility of the myth of sexual freedom; a myth which has become a mere negligent suggestion which occasions sexual frustration today - a repressive posture that does not exceed it's reductive stance in most cases. But for now, West's sex/pop/energy fabrications appear to penetrate all sexual protoplasmic masks, to expose all protoplasmic sexual alibis, and to turn the whole protoplasmic sexual world into a comic spectacle of unsuccessful lying, pompous posturing, and neurotic defensiveness. As such the acidic humor which emanates from West's sex/pop/energy fabrications helps us to re-define the rather negative ideal of hip inertia and jaded incredulity which required surpassing if we are not to fall victim of our own protoplasmic poignancy.

Like idealized cyber-sex simulation then, West's sex/pop/energy fabrications demand that it's viewers embody a disembodied ideal too audaciously hip for human emulation. Guided no longer by fleshy protoplasmic standards, we no longer watch ourselves acting as if we ourselves are only protoplasmic flesh, checking ourselves both inwardly and outwardly for any signs of imaginary disarrangement, or worse, mediocrity. It is through these efforts to not maintain ourselves as the objects of our own anxiously simulated self-spectatorship that we consummate the process of West's sex/pop/energy fabrications.

Joseph Nechvatal
Winter 1999

Joseph Nechvatal has worked with ubiquitous electronic visual information and computer-robotics since 1986. His computer-robotic assisted paintings and computer animations are shown regularly in galleries and museums throughout the world. He has recently worked as artist in-resident at the Louis Pasteur studio and the Ledoux Foundation's computer lab in Arbois, France on 'The Computer Virus Project': an experiment with computer viruses as a creative stratagem. He is collected by the Los Angeles County Museum, the Moderna Musset in Stockholm, Sweden and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, among others. Dr. Nechvatal's work was included in Documenta 8.

Dr. Nechvatal earned his Ph.D. in the philosophy of art and new technology (http://www.dom.de/groebel/jnech/ideals.htm) as a Ph.D. doctoral on-line fellow researcher with CAiiA: the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (http://caiia-star.newport.plymouth.ac.uk) under Roy Ascott. He serves as Parisian editor for "RHIZOME INTERNET" (http://www.rhizome.org) and has written frequently for "Intelligent Agent" (http://www.intelligent-agent.com). Dr. Nechvatal presently teaches theories of Virtual Reality at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and at The Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University . He is a founder of the TELLUS Audio Art Project (http://www.harvestworks.org/tellus/tellus.html) and he served as conference coordinator for the 1st International CAiiA Research Conference entitled "CONSCIOUSNESS REFRAMED: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era" (5 & 6 July 1997): an international conference to look at new developments in art, science, technology and consciousness which was held at CAiiA.