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<nettime> Interview with Prema Murthy on 'Mythic Hybrid'
Diane Ludin on Thu, 16 Jan 2003 11:38:31 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Interview with Prema Murthy on 'Mythic Hybrid'

Diane Ludin talks with Prema Murthy about her
project 'Mythic Hybrid' for Turbulence in thing.reviews
    "A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of
     machine and organism, a creature of social
     reality as well as a creature of fiction.
     Social reality is lived social relations, our
     most important political construction, a
     world-changing fiction. The international
     women's movements have constructed "women's
     experience," as well as uncovered or discovered
     this crucial collective object. This experience
     is a fiction and fact of the most crucial,
     political kind. Liberation rests on the
     construction of the consciousness, the
     imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so
     of possibility." 

           Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto:
           Science, Technology, and
           Socialist-Feminism in the Late
           Twentieth Century"

Diane Ludin: The title of your latest work, Mythic Hybrid, can be considered a resonant term to summarize the promise of technology 
as relates to the internet. Does this title refer to the technology 
that you are using to broadcast your content or is it focused on 
the subject matter alone? 

Prema Murthy: I'm interested in exploring concepts through various technological "lenses" or "filters," so the medium for me is not
separated from the subject matter. It becomes part of the content 
as it also gives it its form. I am as interested in examining the
formal boundaries of digital media as I am in exploring various 
social or cultural contexts out of which specific media are 
constructed.  For this project, I wanted to reinvoke the words 
"mythic hybrid," a term coined by Donna Haraway over ten years 
ago, to call to mind a second reading of some of the ideas proposed 
in her "Cyborg Manifesto." My project, as the term implies, is 
meant to examine collective narrative as fiction as well as complicate
the word "hybrid," which by now has become a cliché when talking 
about the products of human/machine couplings.

Q: When we look at this piece, are we looking at real-time 
returns from the internet, framed within your filtering 
structure, or rather at a select record of search results? 

A: The entire project has been constructed of pieces I 
collected while on a search to find out about the lives 
of a group of women working in micro-electronics factories 
in India who were reported to have had collective hallucinations.
The project mimics the form of a search engine. It is not meant 
to present one "truthful" viewpoint in any way, but rather 
multiple perspectives brought together to form a story.

Q: What do you think of the notion that the internet is a 
medium for tracing the social unconscious, as implied by 
the Google "Zeitgeist?"

A: The Internet has an emptiness about it in the way I think 
the unconscious does. It is like a shell in which information 
is stored, deleted, retrieved, transfigured -- like memories, 
obsessions, dreams, fears. It is also the product of a racist, male-dominated, military-entertainment-industrial complex,
which has undoubtedly left its mark on the medium as well. 

Q: You've been drawing on concepts from Donna Haraway's work 
for some time now. How has your approach to her work evolved 
over time? Could you summarize some of your favorite themes 
from her work? Has creating this work changed your understanding 
of Haraway's concept of the mythic hybrid?

A: When I first read "The Cyborg Manifesto," I was excited 
by the way it challenged dualistic modes of categorization 
and called for an integration of mind and body, nature and
culture, organism and machine, imagination and material 
reality. It urged women to embrace new technologies to 
disrupt the established order and acknowledged the role of 
third world women as integral to (cyber)feminism and the 
global economy. It seemed quite radical at the time, as a 
starting point. Since then, it seems some of its initial 
radicality has been forgotten and it has become absorbed 
more into the mainstream of fashion and proto-hippy culture.
In retrospect, the concept of the mythic hybrid seems to 
lack a realistic consideration of the difficulties involved 
with hybridization and takes a very "optimistic" approach to
contestation through creativity and the imagination.

Q: What were some of the hopes you initially had for cyber-
feminism that haven't been realized?
A: The cyberfeminist movement seems to have carried over a 
lack of concern for issues of race, for which the second 
wave of US American feminism was critiqued. There are online 
forums for discussion, like the Undercurrents listserv that 
has been explicit in its mission to discuss these issues, 
but outside of that I find that it is a fragmented movement. 
It has made me rethink the importance of resistance and 
transformation on many levels, through political movements 
and organization, as well as through micropolitics, pockets 
of disruption specific to certain regions, invisible warfare,

Q: What relationships do you now draw between the labor that 
builds computers -- which we rarely consider -- and the 
hallucinatory experiences that originally interested you in
the factory realities of the workers we watch in the Quicktime 

A: The myth of a group of factory workers driven mad by their 
working conditions, social environments and an over-sensitivity 
to all things supernatural was shattered upon meeting women who 
were struggling, yes, but in quite sane, rational, strong-minded, 
yet still creative ways.


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