Excising the Interface, 2021 is intended for delivery as a 20-minute performance-lecture with continuous live audio-visual components. This piece was written and originally performed for CAST (Contemporary Art and Social Transformation)'s Femmes & Thems Symposium, curated and chaired by Dr. Alison Bennett (RMIT). It is here transcribed in essay format.
A reflective activation of }.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶{, a multi-modal web art collaboration between Daniel R Marks and Mohamed Chamas (and of the tangents of practice which have arisen from this work), Excising the Interface intends to demonstrate poetic, collaborative and nonlinear strategies of working through the complexities of embodiment inherent to cybernetic formations of agency.
Taking reference from the “Let’s Play” genre of externally-narrated video game footage, the project re-fashioned the interface from a membrane of contact between the body and the digital to a convoluted zone of transgressive gamification. Speaking through this work to situate the experimental gestures of my doctoral research, which aims to develop a critically non-binary model of performance art practice, the essay continues and expands upon the processes of the project: queering binary narratives of bodily integrity in screen-space, through convolution and re-configuration of the interface.
This presentation is a response to and re-activation of }.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶{, a collaborative project which was developed between myself and artist, poet and game designer Mohamed Chamas in late 2020 and early 2021. }.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶.̶e̶x̶x̶x̶x̶u̶{ was intended since conception to be viewed in an online format, as a series of YouTube videos which would be encountered as mysterious digital on-site artefacts. The title is unpronounceable in speech – a spinal column of struck-out “file extensions” terminating on both ends with outward-branching brackets; a string of redacted code with its own appendages. The title is itself an exercise of the project’s idiosyncratic language, although it originates from the word “exuviate” – to shed skin.
Taking reference from the “Let’s Play” genre of video game footage (YouTube videos of gameplay with the player’s voice as external narration), we constructed a faux game-world which re-worked the interface of in-game and out-of-game, from a membrane of contact between the body and the digital to a convoluted zone of inward and outward movements. Binary narratives of bodily integrity in screen-space are queered through feedback loops of collaborative worldbuilding, allowing a non-binary state of dis/embodiment to bloom. Our collaboration remains totally intertwined with both of our voices and practices, and the following presentation is my own critical and performative navigation of the project (including traversal of its video and poetic elements) through a lens of queer methodology and non-binary potentiality.
The Let’s Play splits human agency across a multiplicity of bodies: the in-game body, the narrativized bodies of the game world, the body of the player, the unseen player’s own performed narratives in text, and the video footage as a performative assemblage. Finding reconciliation of parts after being sliced apart by broken screens of perspectives and surveillances, the wounded flesh of de-centralised bodies meets and coalesces in cybernetic relation. The interface becomes our surface of excavating meaning.
    one summons the other further, deeper
Far beneath the earliest foundations
A hollowed-out space
My feet stay planted, embedded upon the bedrock
The right foot is dried and cracked, the left cold, numb
These are the feet of the pilgrim who traverses this narrow cavity between light and dark
Limbs stuck as compass points: cardinal absolutions
The body’s deconstruction across the Let’s Play format instigated a symbology of mythic physiology and archaic medical processes – we began to worldbuild around the notion of the “four humours”: the belief that all ailments of the body, including changes in or extremities of behaviour and temperament, were due to an imbalance of four liquids: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. To keep the balance of the humours, certain foods or substances must be consumed, given entry into the body – or otherwise the proliferent humour must be bled out, exiting through intentional wounds in the flesh. [1] Already two motions of practice were realised through the locus of the humours: bleeding and devouring. Out and in. A crossing of the boundary in both directions, in order to maintain a flow of liquid life. The game reaches out. The player reaches in.
Each humour corresponds to an organ, a classical element, a cardinal direction, and most crucially – to a binary combination of the states hot, cold, dry, and wet. Blood is hot and wet. Phlegm is cold and wet. Black bile is cold and dry. Yellow bile is hot and dry. The humours inform a grid matrix of internal binary relations – an interior game logic, the very code of the game – while also providing the means for binary transgression in movements across screen-as-threshold, the interface as representation – between game-voice, player-voice, game interface, video interface, in-game, out-of-game. The hidden internal logic is folded outward.
the terror of skin, tubularia shifting neath it.
Poetry can drive through the expansiveness of a dramaturgy- or a chaotic orchestration.
Punctured and perforated, hooks in the flesh.
Particles and another, runs instruments through to keep in place.
Hemming the runsheet and dying the backlogs. Ignite creation. They’re hollow but
we siphon the softer bits out sucking lungs constrict around
Almost-touches leathered and peeled. Opera of extremities,
membranes, slicing friction edges{;
Hardens as a wall and a knife panoptic occultation. Stop codes for my fingertips,
firebeams brilliant trapped in glass chambers.
Hollow thin corrosion surfaces. Layers of peeled iron. Dissected implement,
controlled device, meat dangles hook
}Excising the interface
In The Unworkable Interface, Alexander Galloway says “the interface works because it doesn’t work”. The interaction between interface and system is not immediate or without a sort of physicality. It represents the relation, in what is technically a failure of instant connection. For a cybernetic culture to maintain dominance over individual life, the relations of the system must be seen: the binary 1 and 0 must be visualised as an immanent connectivity in which we are forever implicated – swallowed into contagious transparency, an X-ray geography. The interface enacts this dominion in representation of its exterior connections, while its interior workings remain hidden. [2]
In another text, Galloway describes this operation as that of a black box: the complex, internal machine completely hidden behind an externally active switch of input and output – a complexity disguised as a binary. [3] The representational flesh continuously encrypts its innards. As such, an individual human agency that is de-centralised across a cybernetic set of relations is therefore also encrypted as a code of skins and thresholds, an organless surface of desires. Here is where we consider the abjectly non-binary in excision of the interface: to hack the representational skin and pull out inner complexity, a queer poetics of divining entrails.
The binary 1 and 0 represents presence and absence. The Monad, the Absolute of monotheistic belief, and the void. All life is, according to the Monadic binary as formulated by mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in the 18th centrury, a relation of the Absolute and nothingness. [4] The standard representation of the Monad is a dot at the centre of a hollow circle: a cell within a membrane, a consciousness within a body, an image on a screen. The 0 is the territory of the 1. To hack this binary we must complicate totality and territory – we must think of the non-binary as a complex spatial gesture: we must navigate and re-construct the abject architecture looming, pulsating beneath the interface, drawing forth its hidden logics in gamification: as symbology, mythology, virtual anatomy, and subjective reading. The integrity of the Monad becomes fragmented across the interfacial landscape, no longer the point within the circle, but a refractive flower, through which there is a speculative view beyond the bounds of the game world.
    we are each other’s burial rites
we followed through
made channels, trenches
one under and one above made a long split
a protagonist extracting and extracted from the bleeding mass of dramaturgical collation
and lacerating the earth, trembling at the lips
Holds spine without source
Root code cannot be found
Unearthed column of central control
Stacked command structure, stacked inter-facial nervous system(s)
how many times will it take to understand
the threat that runs through the coiled mass
I am always shedding that which is perpetually grazed from
sacrifice re-enacts entrance
Dissected implement, controlled device
Limbic systems turn to face each other
from the eternal noclip
In the acts of excavation and exhumation, the interface is treated as a site of archaeological performance, and thus also as a site of decay. In his essay Undercover Softness: An Introduction to the Architecture and Politics of Decay, Reza Negarestani posits the process of decay as a complication of interior and exterior horizons. Intensive exteriority (the screen) shrivels inward upon itself, constructing a subterranean labyrinth, and extensive interiority (the gameplay footage) spills forth in the oozing overgrowth of putrefaction, bringing outward remnants and artefacts as “nightmares of the abyss”. [5]
}Artefacts of dis/embodiment
The unworkable interface is excised, incised, exuviated, as a ruinous space of non-binary potentiality – through the re-working of the artefacts of its interior logic to ritual fetishes, the in-game items gather as nightmarish conspiracy. For each item, the choice of boundary-crossing is made – to bleed or devour? A self-defeating binary, an inherently decayed interface, the sacral point of a non-binary performance.
We are implicated in the language of artefacts, which becomes strangely coherent as we continue to watch the Let’s Play – another layer of gameplay as we cut and slide through the video timeline, bloodletting the game logic out through the screen - we touch it with fingertips and we piece together a constructed narrative of movement beyond the threshold of in-game and out-of-game. The narration of the unseen player is consumed in turn, the Let’s Play an absorbent and clotted screen-space of coagulated representations. In excising the hardened calculi that form here, we discern a body between-the-lines, the protagonist.
The hand is a calculus of touch. The foot is a calculus of navigation.
bloodletting the ruins of 1st-person panoptic self-dissemblage.
in/evokes emergent/immanent nails and bones and dripping skins.
Widened and moistened and wet with our own gathered, pooled interiorities friction and air
hardens, smooths, clotted iconography grows abscess.
Lesser organs for thaumaturgy.
Are not lost in excess, are petrified smoke. In excess you blind with necrospectives.
Caresses the pit. And what gathers in pockets of absent semblance. Limbic systems turn to face each other.
Tensing of thread shapes, the weight of release, flexed and conical.
suppressing from channels, streams of perspectives, command reconnaissance in the dark of internal; infernal; eternal.
Lift both hands to your face: do you not see the blood?
}Strategies for dis-integration
Individual agency dispersed within a cybernetic system is controlled by fear of the abject. Performance art theorist Bojana Kunst writes, “if the threat to connection lies in its collapse, then the connection itself is understood in advance as a hierarchical procedure, with no potential for disobedience”. The threat of disconnected tissue maintains control – the interface depends on Monadic worship. A principle of alienating, applied in performance and dramaturgy, employs a loophole of disobedient connectivity. [6] The manifesto of the Xenofeminists sides with this operation, in their identification with the alien and “unnatural” (by heteronormative judgement) and their creative hacking of codes societal, biological and technological. [7] To identify with the alien is to identify with the blind spot, the “View from Nowhere”, [8] that point beyond the horizon which we can point to in diagramming, fictioning, worldbuilding, game-making. A space that is both foreign territory and intimately bodily, where the threat of abjection is a promise of reconciliation and radical formation.
French collective Tiqqun, in their Cybernetic Hypothesis, propose this space as one of becoming-fog – of resisting cybernetic transparency in inhabiting an opaque haziness of form and action – the encrypted and the crypt dissolving into gaseous insurgency. [9]
From the fog, a virtual fog of blood, dust and disintegrated computer screens, Mohamed Chamas and myself summoned forth a symbolic anatomy of humoural logic: a formless haze of intersecting agencies given non-binary flesh, organs, nerves, bones, a self-excising interface and self-incising exoface – the encrypting threshold treated as auto-destructive and re-constructive geography. The liquid self, the ideal of post-binary life, congeals as anonymous and intimate, abjectly open, blooming outward and inward at once. Blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile, hot-wet, cold-wet, cold-dry, hot-dry.
convalescing breath, crystallised on entry
Protagonist-device : anatomy-dramaturgy
Internal alchemy, insertion of medicine, bleeding of expunged matter 
drying, and simultaneously wet from the cold sinews
I drag a shimmering line from exo to eso.
from the unending fall. Holds spine without source trapped follicles,
orifices, clogged with hardened lumps
pearl-like calculi rough stone icons that have become smooth
in the churning cavity palms soles define edges peripheries of/within
mouth, lungs, liver, gallbladder, spleen,
that longs for a union backstage. permanent deletion.
and after, an intimacy with manifold geometries.

[1] Jacques Jouanna and Neil Allies, “The Legacy of the Hippocratic Treatise The Nature of Man: the Theory of the Four Humours” in Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen: Selected Papers, ed. Philip van der Eijk (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 335–60.
[2] Alexander Galloway, “The Unworkable Interface”, in New Literary History, Vol. 39, No. 04, (2008), 931-955.
[3] Alexander Galloway, Black Box, Black Bloc, (talk presented at New School, New York, 12 April 2010).
[4] Martin Reinhart, “Know Your Name: A Short History of Occidental Knowledge Systems since the Renaissance”, in Data Loam: Sometimes Hard, Usually Soft (The Future of Knowledge Systems), ed. Johnny Golding and Martin Reinhart (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020), 11-37.
[5] Reza Negarestani, “Undercover Softness: An Introduction to the Architecture and Politics of Decay”, in Collapse 4, (2010), 379-430.
[6] Bojana Kunst, “Liberation or Control: Disobedient Connections in Contemporary Works”, in Leonardo, Vol. 38, No. 05, (2005), 419-423.
[7] Laboria Cuboniks, The Xenofeminist Manifesto (London: Verso, 2018).
[8] Ray Brassier, “The View from Nowhere”, in Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture, Vol 08, No. 02, (2011), 7-23.
[9] Tiqqun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2001). 155–167.

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