Week 4 Response \ Implantation of Memory

In Eduardo Kac’s Time Capsule, he explores the relation between body and his technology. He named it Time Capsule because of the microchip he programmed with an ID number. It is integrated with a coil and a capacitor, all sealed in biocompatible glass. This piece is transient but it will stay in his body for the rest of his life. Where the event took place remains to be the gallery space. Where there are 7 sepia toned photos shot in Eastern Europe in the 1930s on one side of the room, and an X-ray and the Identichip ID and recovery database on the other. In the room, there are also a horizontal bedstead, a computer with internet, a telerobotic finger, and additional broadcasting equipment.

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The procedure went as follows. On Tuesday, November 11, 1997, at 10:00 PM in Casa das Rosas Cultural Center, São Paulo, Brazil, Kac started the procedure by cleaning his ankle with an antiseptic and using a needle to subcutaneously inert the microchip. He scanned the chip and the LCD screen displayed his unique numerical code. He then registered himself in a remote database in the United States. This was the first time a human was added to the database, since this is more so for recovery of lost animals. Kac broadcasted this whole process live on Brazilian television via TV Bandeirantes.

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Through this piece, Kac was trying to increase awareness of the direction technology was heading during that time. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, the development of photography encouraged many of its technology to function as social time capsules and preservation of our social beings. By the end of the 20th century, however, digital technology facilitated the erasures of photographic truths. The representation of imaging can never be trust, and people can go through plastic surgery to configure themselves just as easy as photo manipulation. With these possibilities, the ability to alter our memory is also very likely. The human body is traditionally seen as a place for storing our experiences and our DNA. In Time Capsule, the presence of the chip inside the body forces us to consider the co-presence of real and artificial memories within us. Experiences become implants in the body, “anticipating future instances in which events of this sort might become common practice and inquiring about the legitimacy and ethical implications of such procedures in the digital culture.”(Kac) Kac used this piece to show that technological advancements are taking a route that gearing humans away from their identities.

If I were to present this piece, I think it would have been a better idea if the walls of room remained empty, but the visitors will watch a video of the process prior to entering the room. That way they can have a sense of what once took place in that room. I would also leave a print out of the database page on the table as evidence. All in all, I think his idea was great in trying to push boundaries and proving his point. How far is too far when it comes to self-alteration? And what is it that really defines a person’s identity?

-Kelly Kwok

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