BECOMING POST-EGO
by Dr. Hugo Heyrman


Published in the 'Encyclopedia of Postmodernism',
Victor E. Taylor, Charles E. Winquist, Routledge, 2000.


"Je est un autre." —ARTHUR RIMBAUD, Lettre du Voyant.

"... A new breed of developmental theory is likely to arise... Its central technical concern will be how to create in the young an appreciation of the fact that many worlds are possible, that meaning and reality are created and not discovered, that negotiation is the art of constructing new meaning by which individuals can regulate their relations with each other." —JEROME BRUNER, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds.

Each of us is a unique reality, a personal universe, the only focus of a private world. It is precisely in our own awareness, our devoted concentration, that we are able to define -and finally to transform ourselves. As we know from day-to-day experience, reality is a bubbling stew of observations, memories and interpretations. For this reason, it is perhaps today's new mediartist, who most closely approaches and personifies Oliver Sacks' dream of a science of the individual. It took the human mind 20.000 years to arrive at this point in history; from the first primitive tool to the sophisticated computer of today. The beginning of 'self' consciousness is the prime creation of man and by doing so, man transforms himself. Moreover, man can communicate knowledge acquired by experience to other members of the group. From the moment word and creative gesture were born, man has tried to capture his subjective experience of time. In his struggle for survival, man takes possession of the natural by transforming it. By attaching significance to similarity - the process of mimesis: 'making alike', man transforms nature into art. With the use of tools he extended his power. But before man became a tool-maker, he was certainly a dreamer, already using his intuition and his imagination for concept formation: as a symbol-maker, a story teller, a sign —and a picture-maker, it shows the interrelated origins of art and technology. In a magical act of creation, religion, science and art were combined in a latent form.

Basically, in his way of thinking, feeling and acting, the cave-man, -women, and -child possessed all the characteristics of a 'human' in the same sense as we are 'human' today. In the caves of Altamira and Lascaux (the birthplaces of art) we find already the necessity of a principle, consisting of two basic elements: selection and variation. And together with this necessity we may note another characteristic of all primitive art forms -the love of rhythm and pattern. The enjoyment of rhythm for its own sake appears to be an essential factor at the very birth of the art impulse and at the same time it marks the origin of the sense of beauty.

In his book The Shape of Time, George Kubler begins the first chapter of The History of Things, by saying: "Let us suppose that the idea of art can be expanded to embrace the whole range of man-made things, including all tools and writing in addition to the useless, beautiful, and poetic things of the world". (1) By this view the universe of man-made things simply coincides with the history of art. It becomes an urgent requirement to devise better ways of considering everything man has made. Inspired by new insights in fields such as anthropology and linguistics, George Kubler's remark is expanding the bounds of art and history. Indeed, to consider the importance of an artwork as a 'piece of history' in itself, means also to locate it at a particular time and place, and to put it rightful into his context. Art, at its root, is association -the power of transformation- to make one thing stand for and symbolise another. Now the computer imitate 'creation' itself. Interactive Art is really humanizing technologies. Our senses and ego's are becoming tele-matically extended on a global scale. The question will be, how we define ourselves ? What is the form of the personal ? What is "I" ?

The 'address' of the 'I' is non-existent. I, identity, or the self is no internal soverein domain. The notion of a personal individuality is a fiction. The 'individual' is an illusion. To be means to communicate. Being is becoming. In principle, we become ourselves through others, but also through our other self's: alter ego, alias, or virtual avatar. We go from pre ego, over ego, towards post ego. (2)
Becoming post ego consists of a new balance between:

  Actual Self (who you actually are)
• Ideal Self (who you would like to be)
  Perceived Self (who others are taken you to be)
  Future Self (who you expected to be in, say in the short-term future of three to five years time)

What I call 'post ego' is the transformation of the 'self'. The coming period will be characterised by the construction of the 'self: the transcendence of the ego. It should cause no astonishment that subjectivism and egotism form a cul-de-sac, a prison from which we want to escape. Therefore we need to respect and to put into value the inseparable connection of the ego with the external world. Self is not an entity locked up in the body; it is the constant interaction of the objective and the subjective. Identity is a process, a continuous engagement with change. In the future, artists may no longer be involved in just redefining art. In the posthuman future, artists may also be involved in redefining life. Posthuman bodies explores the way that new technologies are changing our concepts of human nature and human identity as we evolve from the human into the technologically enchanced 'posthuman'. In the future, it will become casual to re-invent oneself: the 'uncensorised I'. After the exploration of outer space, the virtues of our inner space travels are coming into being. The brain as cyberspace: the (un)conscious enters into the age of it's technical reproducibility. A cyber-civilisation is taking form.

—Dr. Hugo Heyrman
painter, new media researcher
professor, Royal Academy for Fine Arts
Antwerp - Belgium

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Notes
1. KUBLER, GEORGE, The Shape of Time, Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1962), p. 1.
2. With the coining of the term 'post ego', I want to describe that the real 'extension of man' is awareness and self-consciousness. By becoming post ego we are transforming ourselves into a less egocentered personality.


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