If it is possible to speak of a grace machine, at some point the question must arise what the exact relationship is between grace and technology, especially media technology since that is the realm of radiance and radiation. Here the gap takes on a particular quality, that of a light-filled thickness without which nothing can happen. Many have studied the link between grace and technology; Samuel Butler, for instance, who classified it as a form of the unconscious. We will expand his ideas into a distributed consciousness while engaging media theorists such as Marshall McLuhan, Donna Haraway, and Paul Virilio, who speculated on the flickering, epileptic nature of consciousness. Along the way, we will make detailed studies of the research into the visions and hallucinations created by psychotropic drugs, which are astoundingly similar to ornamental pattern design. (Henri Michaux, for example, called his mescaline trips a form of “ornamentogenesis,” or Walter Benjamin, who spoke of ornamental radiation in the context of hashish.)

FLOATING: Media and the Octopus (part 1): media

Why is it that we can draw such strong parallels between the grace machine and technology? Above all, because the shining-absorbing route of the gift cycle runs parallel to the prosthetic extension of technology and its incorporation. This connection opens up the door to an almost psychotropic understanding of media. If these are “the extensions of man,” as McLuhan said, then their intake creates a “narcotic numbness:” words we find across the works of Tarde, Virilio, Bateson, and Butler. Civilization is, according to the latter, a “community of limbs”—a stunning statement in light of our earlier investigations of Ravaisson and Kleist, who would have appreciated the comparison he added to a “community of souls.” Especially when dealing with media technology this looping relationship between the prosthetic and the mimetic starts to play a central role in the media theories of Marshall McLuhan and Paul Virilio, who move from a theory of electrical light as “information without content” to a theory of bliss that involves the flickering black and white images of early film, the epileptic episodes of Prince Myshkin, and the white lady witnessed by Bernadette Soubirous, also known as St Bernadette of Lourdes. From here we turn to the floating figures of the bioluminescent octopus and vampire squid which turns into the very study of media itself.

FLOATING: Media and the Octopus (part 2): medium

We proceed by investigating the prosthesis-mimesis loop from the side of the transformation of consciousness; now not looking from the outside of McLuhan’s narcosis, but from the inside. This perspective brings us directly in contact with André Breton’s seminal text “The Automatic Message”, which reads as a radicalization of McLuhan’s “Medium is the Message”. We are not looking at screens anymore, we have become screens, bioluminescent creatures emitting images. At this point technology is not this simple networking machinery of linking up, but of finding planes of images. This opacity of things is what Surrealism understood so well, and what Breton directly linked to Art Nouveau. It discovered an extreme softness in things, a liquidity even, that makes use of two different media: water for complete subliminal submergence, and red-hot iron, molten to be cast in matrices. While for Walter Benjamin the hollow form was the velvet grave the inhabitants of Art Nouveau’s houses buried themselves in, that tomb was in fact the womb all things budded and flowered from. We encounter three major figures of Art Nouveau: the Octopus, Olympia the automaton, and Narcissus, who died at the pond absorbed by his double and transmutated into the flower we all know. Liquidity, softness, mimesis, love, and technology all merge in the complex exchange of appearances and movement.