This text was commissioned by designer Joana Pestana to be included in The Extended Times, a fictional newspaper with stories about life extension and digital afterlife.
I also performed the text as part of The Surround X The Re-imagined in May 2018.
This was a collaborative event with Sarah Gillett, as part of Last Dance: Re-imagined Futures at Lighthouse, Brighton. Featuring Jennifer Boyd Hannah, Catherine Jones Sarah Gillett, Natascha Nanji, Alien Wind and Gez Barton (photo by Anya Arnold).
In the waiting room of the healer’s office I’m flicking through a stack of tattered magazines; at each visit a new relic is coyly positioned to impart a tantalising peep hole into the past. My fingers feel their way through other lives, where current simulated memory zones fall short. I giggle at products for sale, health advisors and companies offering to manage your digital afterlife: delete after death? seems so innocent and childlike a proposition. But as with all shifting technoscapes — our consciousness catapulted us so very far beyond what was previously yoked to the mere physical — how could we have known back then. My pulse is interrupted by a beat calling me into the consult- ing chamber – snapping out of the reverie I look down and all the while I’ve been staring at a picture of a lobster.
The darkness of the amethyst lined chamber is where Jimmy and I discuss to which plane reincarnation has been relegated in this era of comfortable living on and on happily forever after. Previous dictums favoured uploading into objects. Sophisticated and complex, the mind nonetheless stayed fixed to a lump of silicon. Those ardent materialists allowed their cadavers to de- compose while their minds went on to benefit ‘humanity’. Artists prophesied: What happens to identification at this point? Who can we identify with? Of course, identification is always with an image. But ask anybody whether they’d actually like to be a JPEG file (Hito Steyerl). The Valley boys didn’t see it coming. Nor did the soothsayers who walked among us, spouting bizarre parables. We see dead people, they said, being thawed back to life after lying frozen for years was al- ways going to pose difficulties. These days, purity lingers in a sea of destiny. We live higher in the skies perched among flora and fauna, mingling with creatures of flight and overgrown reptiles. Some reside on meteors or neighbouring planets, ever fixated by new frontiers. We all feed and copulate with meticulous care, comfortably regenerating with care. Jimmy and I stare at each other, transfixed as the chamber resonates with our unspoken expressions of exchange. As the session draws to a close I confide being woken this morning by my skin, as if the epidermis were out of sync with its subdermal counterparts. For the first time during our three year relationship he asks me to draw a card from the tarot: I pull Death.
Back home I unfold the magazine swiped on the way out, opening it to the page I had left off: How do lobsters grow? Researchers suggest lobsters may not slow down, weaken, or lose fertility with age, and that older lobsters may be more fertile than younger lobsters. Lobsters live inside of a rigid shell that does not expand, they grow by moulting their hard exoskeleton. The average lobster can moult 44 times before it’s a year old. Lobster longevity is limited by size. Moulting re- quires metabolic energy, the larger the lobster, the more energy is needed. Leaning back, gazing, up towards a hazy blue sky, mottled through tropical foliage cascading along the apex of the dome, my skin still feels taut. Tingling as if it were in a continual state of stretching across minutely expand- ing muscles, struggling to keep pace, an unknown sensation but eerily familiar, I am overcome by a desire to come outside of my skin. Seemingly at once, the sun is setting, a glorious blast of pink hurtled across the sky, like a streak of hallucinatory blood excitedly leaked during an emancipatory gesture. I flash back to that time in the early days when it snowed in April. Freak weather phenomena appears a mere touch less freakish as only a few opt to download memory data into weather forces. My mind smoothly matches the moment, without an iota of irony to The Egyptian Book of Dead: And the belly of the sky is beautiful.
That night I visit a reflecting pool when a lullaby fixates in my mind, sung to me by one of the witches: “On the outer edges of subjective experience—It’s lonely out here. I walk through the Ukrainian forest in the dark. And on the other side: an unbearable light…Suddenly the luminous world emerges from behind the veil of darkness,” (Jackie Wang).
Time to ascend the comfort of living on, after all.
I The sarcophagus is heavy and ornate, arrangements to secure one can be made by contacting a location where you have previously left a mark. [I chose Kathmandu and was accepted.]
i The sarcophagus is lined with 24 carat gold, emits a soft reddish yellow glow, simultaneously cool yet warm to the touch.
ii The gold is lined with herbs and crystal: french lavender, north american desert sage and juniper, wild hemp, greek rosemary, indian basil and incense leaf. [My crystal of choice is a pillow of iridescent lilac lepidolite I mined from a basin in Namibia.]
iii It is required to flush the body of toxins before entering, through fasting, and purifying externally and internally with colloidal silver.
II The length of time in the sarcophagus can be determined by referring to the tablet. [I opt for maximum exposure to leach out data memories sunk deep into my veins and arteries within watery capsules floating around my system. This will leave me weaker and lighter, half the person I presently am.]
III Select the erratic weather phenomena your leeched watery self will forge into.
IV During the period in the sarcophagus you will enter kel’no’reem, a state of deep meditation.
V Over this time you may be visited.
VI On the final day, a watcher will shave your head and along with the herbaceous matter beneath you, the hair will be burned at the nearest ancient funerary site.
VII Later, a skulk of foxes will enter the room to assist your remaining self to prepare for the expectation of transcendence. Do not expect it to come.