the techno-human condition

Some time 2007 I changed the design of this website to incorporate the sunflower image that has become the symbol of veganarky, of what it means to me. The image is of one of a small number of similar sculptures of sunflowers in Front Street, Toronto (Ontario) [I have made some minor modifications to saturation and hue, and to remove any background]. I have now found some words to describe part of what the image represents for me.

As a starting point, the sunflower is an almost a universal symbol for and of veganism. Prior to using this image, I had made a mashup of the green anarchy (sunflower) logo, combined with the centre of a real sunflower with overlaid masks of the global continents (centred on Australia) and the symbol for anarchism. When I first came across the sunflower sculpture, I very quickly realised this would be the replacement.

I perceived the sunflower sculpture as an intersection of the natural and the techno-human condition that is a constant struggle in contemporary postmodern(?) society. The scupltire is thus positioned here as an industrial representation and re-presentation of the natural that western societies (ideologically) seek to divorce themselves from as chaotic, subservient and of instrumental value only. It also symbolises a seeking to find my place in the natural whilst existing surrounded by an ideological, socially and physically constituted society that rejects any biocentric founding. A rejection of human chauvinism.

The industrial (cold, hard, uncompromising) representation of life that the sunflower epitomises is an oxymoron. Extending from, and central to, the struggle at the intersection of the natural and the techno-human condition, is the (hegemonic) masculine struggle with and of patriarchy. By patriarchy, I am referring to the systematic exploitation of women for the benefit of men that also requires the systematic exploitation of men through the impositions of hegemonic masculinity. Anyone who does not ascribe to such notions of masculinity are not seen as fully constituted persons. This is a constant and multifaceted struggle for many in the world today.

The manipulated image of the sculpture here is presented in greyscale. The original is not devoid of colour, rather constituted by the colours of rusting (industrial) metal. We can see in this the inevitable withering of the techno-industrial, the techno-human condition that seeks to set itself apart from the natural. With the image represented here based on a frozen-in-time snapshot — the process of environmental weathering captured in that 2007 moment when I had a camera with me and stumbled across the sculpture, there is purpose to greyscale. As presented here, is is representative of not being fully constituted, of not being able to be fully constituted in contemporary western society. The implications of social norms, of multitudinal intersecting hegemonies and the struggle with these. The greyscale represents potential. Of having the potential to gain colour as representative of becoming more alive, to move closer towards becoming a fully constituted person. Of moving ourselves towards a more with(in) as opposed to seeing ourselves as separate to the natural world. In this sense, there is always potential for this image to replaced with colour: for me, having the potential for this is the most important, uplifting, and exhilarating feature (when I am feeling optimism).

If I could sum this up in one sentence, the image represents a constant reminder of existing in a mediated world that seeks to re-represent the natural in technological ways.

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