Saturday, 7 July 2007

Ned Kelly: Australia's first cyborg?

The thought occurred to me that one of the underdeveloped aspects of Australian sts/cultural theory is the relationship awaiting further development between the basic question of postcolonial theory, "can the master's tools be used to tear down the master's house?", and arguments against the technologically determinist libertarian character of some postmodern writing on technoculture. It was disappointing to discover then that among the rare references kicking around to Australia's iconic outlaw figure, Ned Kelly, and questions about cyborgs etc, the most prominent have arisen in the context of art installations. Surely much work remains to be done on situating Ned as part of the Irish diaspora, his family driven to financial ruin by the increasing technological rationalisation of corporate power/large landholders, and his recuperation of ploughing equipment as body armour. Afterall, over at sites such as
consideration can be given to how the infamous last stand at Glenrowan was intended to kickstart a revolution, nothing less than the development of an Irish free state within the borders of Victoria.
Leaving these considerations to a later day, what follows is the reference to Kelly in the terms of technoculture from a media artist:

Conomos' work is an expression of Raymond Bellour's unspeakable 'in-between' concepts- forms, gestures and spaces that emanate via the computer, traversing the camera-based artforms of cinema, photography and video.
Says Conomos, 'As an artist and theorist, I am by necessity a "rhizomatic go-between"... located in a nomadic, paradoxical space- between culture and system- who shuttles between cinema, literature, new media and the visual arts, creating at the edge and in the midst of things, and suspicious of mono-cultural thinking'.
Conomos is interested in exploring new media in terms of the impossibility of digital autobiography. His work considers post-colonial dislocation, cultural mistranslation and transmigratory spaces. He investigates a post-colonial subjectivity forged by exile, longing and restlessness and regards image-making as a fugitive, elliptical enterprise in which one is constantly checking one's cultural and epistemological baggage.
Cyborg Ned (2003) a collaborative digital sculpture that directly reworks Nam June Paik's famous TV Buddha. The underlying thematic core of the piece is the poetic potency of Ned Kelly in the Australian popular imagination. Conomos' cultural and formal take on the Ned Kelly myth is of the first surreal cyborg located in the Australian bush. 'He stands in his cyborgian frame as a silent eyewitness to his own mythic narrative as an expression of the romantic outlaw hero', says Conomos.

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