My Apparatus

Many of us do not know what a private body looks like.

by Neve Be on September 8th, 2014
  1. I am a body born of elements, water and fire, and sometimes earth and air, in and amongst capitalism, sucking off the medical and various technology industrial complexes, full of complexes of my own. I am disabled and sexual. I am a ritual performer and a queer double agent. At anarchist/activist meetings I attended 5-7 years ago they used to say, take your battery out of your phone. We forgot about our immediate visibility. It was not just ears used for listening. I was excited when my phone was lost or broken. Believing that I slipped more seamlessly in and out of spaces. But I never have. My body is an obvious interruption. And my phone is now a part of how I mobilize. I use my phone to navigate, to reach out, and to have sex. I use the internet to share that mobilizing, that sex with you. I touch you with metal and plastic and neurons and electrical pulses and flesh flesh flesh.
  2. In the close dark night I hold you or you hold me under a canopy of cream and my arm aches and my thighs, my pelvis tightens and you hear me, you do.
  3. Before me, you hated the phone. Now it is as hot and tear soaked as your own neck with my face in it.
  4. The apparatus is a manipulation in the relationality of forces, it is the network of bodies, institutions, intentions, materials, immaterials, and forces themselves. Therefore I am a part of it, and I am always touching it, and I am always touching you with it. I do not believe in copyright or citation. But I believe we leave marks. I am a part of an apparatus, and my existence coincides with a militaristic, technologically assisted system, but I am not a part of the plan. I was not planned for. Many of us are not.
  5. When I was sixteen a boy told me I was not what he was looking for, but that he couldn’t stop seeing me. I was so visible. I told him to keep looking. I cried all night. But I also knew that I was gay. And he wasn’t what I was looking for either. I dyed my hair blue. And continued my high octane visibility.
  6. My mom asked me why I wanted to stand out so much. I told her that any sea animal will stand out on firm ground. In the ocean there were darker places where magic grew, and even bright things could hide. But I can’t go back. And neither can you. And even though I have a spotlight shone on me by your sharp eyes, your cock, the state, the police, the university theatre, data brokers, my doctor, my doctor’s therapist, my parents, your church, I cannot swim to the woods to be unmonitored and alone.
  7. In news sources which vary vastly between perspective, audience, and agenda, a future present in which very few can afford or obtain access to privacy is being considered. Maybe I am too disabled, or too poetic, to be disturbed by that concept alone.
  8. If you use the internet, or a smart phone, you must know they know you. You must know how slippery and yet touchable your location, face, fingers, interests, and habits are. What they cannot really know is what you love. No apparatus is inherently made of, or cognizant of love. But I am. You are.
  9. I think that the binaristic, state assumed polarized concepts of public and private, are equally problematic. Who believed their life was private? Who got to have that right? That privilege? I didn’t read science fiction because it seemed far out. I read it because it seemed close. Not only for our political circumstances, which perhaps can be called dystopian, but for my little cyborg body. My body has been monitored since before I was born to ascertain how wrong whatever was wrong with me was. I wasn’t born in the hospital, but I had my first surgery at DuPont Children’s Hospital in 1991. I would never have thrived, without assistive technology of many kinds. As disabled person/worker/nonworker, recipient of SSI, I not only am closely audited by the federal and state governments and IRS, but I willingly have to offer up information to them on a monthly basis. My mother began this relationship with the government in 1995, I recently came to understand, because when you have a disabled child you are eligible for supplemental government assistance to support them. As an adult, I was eligible to continue to receive this supplementary income, given how my disability prevented me from getting jobs involving inaccessible buildings or many forms of labor. Look, I am giving you stats. Here is my life laid out. My mother and my partner, and many of my friends, comment on how “public” my life is. I will tell you I never had a choice. Yet I do engage, openly and with awareness, in perpetuating my close relationship to public personhood, a choice I never had.
  10. My phone case is a pair of lips and I adhere it to the side of my face like a flounder and I look for you with my mouth. Even when I cannot leave my house because the battery of my old power chair has been dead for months, I can sing to you and taste you. I can call a person who drives a car. I can tell them how grateful I am will be will be. And how fast I will go when I can finally get out.
  11. Many of us do not know what a private body looks like. What I do not want to do is represent corporations with my body. Since no one other than my network of friends will pay me for the art I do, perhaps I won’t have to tour with vodka or war machines, perhaps I will be inside my own underwater ecology on firm land. But no one is that isolated. I know I am represented, whether I approve the message or not. I know I am implicated.
  12. The same tech giants that allow my poet friend’s computerized voice to sound like Saul Williams through TTS (text to speech technology) also skirt billions of dollars in taxes while helping to fund war.
  13. Not only can you find me on the internet, I will help you do it. Not only can you find me, but you can find me crying and laughing and sweating and naked. And still you will not take me from what I love. Still you will not use my body to do what you want it to. I use the master’s tools. But I am not the master’s function. I am not living off the grid, but swim and chew through it, against it. I have gone rogue in plain sight.
  14. Giorgio Agamben believes life as we know it can be divided into three classes: living beings, apparatuses (by which living beings are captured), and subjects (that which is created by the relentless fight between living beings and apparatuses). Substance and subject. The user of the cellphone. The creator of the cellphone. The funder of the cellphone technology. Those who are touched and those who touched. But can all relationships be divided so cleanly? He said that in our current stage of capitalist development there is not a single instance in which we are not “modeled, contaminated, and controlled” by some apparatus. And this is in many ways true. But ah, contamination. Some of us were born in need of such contamination to move and survive and connect. If I drop all my devices and stop moving and don’t touch you and never call out and never ask for what I need from another creature/thing, will I be in control?
  15. I’m gonna tell you a secret: There is no evil. But some things are very twisted. I think war is wrong. I think guns are bad. I think intelligence agencies are scary. And so is technology. Because the truth is, technology is neutral. A turncoat. You can’t even personify it that much. Technology aids the military surveillance industrial complex in the same moment that it aids me, and other disabled people. I cannot make that okay. It is just true. And I’m not gonna stop using my power chair. And I’m not gonna stop using my phone. And I’m not gonna go underground or rogue or depersonalize my use of anything. I am going to reach out. I am going to critique. I am going to live alternatively and wildly and well. And when they come for me, they will know exactly where I live. And they will probably know all of my names. I hope something else happens first. But that might be the way it goes.
  16. Some activists wish to move quietly, invisibly, to slip through the cracks and enlarge them. For many disabled people, including and especially disabled artists and sex workers, without technology, without visibility, we disappear inside institutions, bedrooms, assisted living centers, hospitals, and the very cracks you speak of. Where would you like us to land? That is asked of me often, can you hear the love being given to you now that you are truly alive? Now that you are out, an adult, queer, doing queer adult things with loved ones loving you, can you let that love land? Where can we, sea creatures on earth, land?
  17. If there are stairs up to the warm dark place you wish me to join you in, I will be outside, on my phone, imagining what it’s like. My imagination is an assistive technology, and technology has assisted my imagination too.