In 1997, the artist Eduardo Kac tested out a form of cyborgian art in his project, 'Time Capsule' (Time Capsule Record), which involved the self-injection of a microchip, allowing viewers around the world to 'read' his body.
Images of Eduardo Kac's self-implantation from 'Time Capsule'
artistic performance, more than twenty years ago, is perhaps a
watershed moment, when it became possible to incorporealize digital
technology outside the lab. Now, such body modification comes in many
forms: from boundary-pushing piercings and subdermal implantation to
voluntary biohacking (practised by Grinders) and the transhumanist
movement. Some of this body transformation is aesthetic, some ritual or
religious, some--as with Kac--artistic. The body can be 'read' in terms
of its data output, with internal chips linked to computer networks
thousands of miles away. Such experimentation is lauded (See Professor Kevin Warwick's work)
and at the forefront of (neuro-)engineering research; or modified
bodies can find themselves at the center of legal cases between employer
and employee (Cloutier v Costco).
for body modification might be the individual pursuit of self-expression,
or a collective impulse--to identify as part of a community. A body
modifier may deliberately reject society's insistence on bodily
perfection; conversely, some of the most curious body transformation
attempts to reflect impossible conceptions of beauty (Valeria Lukyanova, 'Russian Barbie'). Efforts to mark the body as one's own canvas, writing a
text of oneself in effect, is as old as the British Museum's Egyptian
mummy recently identified as having of one of the earliest known figural tattoos (Gebelein Man); or it can be as socially and cultural significant as the lip plates of the Mursi tribe (Afritorial on the Mursi).
For longer than recorded time, then, the embodied text has been a means
of self-identification, or noting a communal belonging, a resistance, a
compliance. Yet all such efforts are transitory (despite the grandiose objectives of Ray Kurzweil and his followers [Immortal by 2045]), for each of us is, and should remain, ephemeral and time-bound.
Thanks to fellow Tweeters, Georgia Heney, Felicia J. Steele,
Matthew Holford, Carin Ruff, and Sara Charles. This list does not pretend to be
complete; it’s a fast gathering of what’s around at the moment. I’d be glad to
update or add other links. See, for more complete information about online
resources, ‘Websites’ at section 7.
Dream of the Rood, or A Vision of the Cross
as it is sometimes more appropriately titled, is justly one of the most
critically acclaimed poems in English. It survives in the Vercelli Book, folios
104 verso to 106 recto. Parts of the text are among the oldest surviving poetic
expressions in the vernacular. Carved in runes into the shaft of the early
eighth-century Northumbrian Ruthwell Cross are lines of poetry that, in the
tenth century, reappear in The Dream of the Rood. The lines on the
Ruthwell Cross form the marginal text to elaborate carved depictions of the
Tree of Life. They correspond to lines 39-42, 44-5, 48-9, 56-9, and 62-4 of the
unique Vercelli Book text (for the texts arranged en-face, and a good
discussion of the artistic scheme of the Ruthwell Cross, see Swanton, ed., The
Dream of the Rood).
The Dream of the Rood is
riddlic (see also the Exeter Book Riddle on the Cross), penitential,
eschatalogical (that is, concerned with death, judgement, and the afterlife),
and evangelical. It is the first Dream-Vision poem in English. The poet speaks
in the first person to relate the vision creating a sense of immediacy and
urgency in the narration. The precise nature of this vision is only gradually
revealed, as in a riddle. When it is made known that syllicre treow
(‘a better tree’), this beam ‘wood’, refers to the Saviour’s tree, the
immediacy of the text is increased by the startling poetic device of
prosopopeia through which the inanimate object is brought to life and given a
voice of its own. The Cross is Christ’s retainer, serving its lord as a
Germanic comitatus member would serve; but it is also Christ’s bana
‘slayer’, a role that goes against all that the heroic code advocates. The
reader or listener of the poem observes the Cross with the poet through a rich
visual depiction: the Cross is mutable, covered in gems, then covered in blood.
This duality represents the central paradox of the Cross. The audience is made
to participate in the Crucifixion and its aftermath, seeing the events through
the eyes of the witness Cross. In this way, the revelations bring about
repentance in the audience for the sins committed that compelled Christ to
become mortal and redeem mankind. Christ’s mortality, the issue of his divine
humanity, was the focus of considerable theological controversy in the earlier
medieval period. The poet deftly retains complete orthodoxy by inscribing the
sufferings of Christ onto the Cross: the Cross speaks of its pain, its torment,
not of that belonging to Christ himself. At the same time, Christ is a divine
being, and an heroic Germanic lord, one who dies to save his troop. He
voluntarily ascends the Cross, indeed, ‘embraces’ the instrument of his death.
Neither does the Cross talk of Christ’s death: Christ rests, ‘weary after the
battle’. The victory of resurrection complete, the Cross continues with its
biography—its discovery by Helena, Constantine’s mother, and how it is now a symbol of Christ’s salvation and Judgement, a
token of faith and, as in the case of the Ruthwell Cross, an object of
devotion. This leads into the final homiletic section of the poem in which the
poet himself, initially impelled to contrition, then to a revitalised faith,
determines to seek the heavenly home.
the structural framework of the text, phrasal parallels draw together the three
central characters in the work: the poet, the Cross, and Christ. These verbal
links emphasise God’s desire for mankind to be united with him and his Church
and repatriated in heaven by following lifes weg (‘the way of life’,
line 88b). This poem is a unique reading of the central event in salvation
history—the Crucifixion—and is not confined to present or past or future; it is
a timeless text that continues to move readers more than a thousand years after
London, British Library, Arundel 60, f. 52v, s. xi
The Dream of the
Hwæt, Ic swefna cystsecgan
hwæt me gemætteto midre
Þuhte me þæt Ic gesawe syllicre treow
on lyft lædan,leohte
bearma beorhtost.Eall þæt
begoten mid golde;gimmas
fægere æt foldan sceatum,swylce þær fife wæron
uppe on þam eaxlegespanne.Beheoldon þær engel Dryhtnes ealle
 ‘we’ are the three crosses: that of Christ and those of the two
thieves crucified with him.
 Helena, mother of Constantine, and Cyriac discovered the Cross in
the fourth century.
 This ‘undertaking’ refers to the Harrowing of Hell when Christ
rescued the souls who had been condemned to Hell following the centuries after
the Fall of Man. This apocryphal event took place in the days between Christ’s
crucifixion and resurrection.