Sex Without Friction focuses on Cheang Shu Lea's science fiction porno I.K.U. (2000) as provocation to think through the limitations of social and cultural criticism that is premised on mediation. Directed by Taiwan-born digital nomad Cheang, multimedia film I.K.U. features a gender-morphing human clone, programmed to collect sexual experiences for the future mass production of sex simulation pills. I.K.U. positions viewers as spectators, users, and interceptors in the display and transmission of images and information as we follow the clone's movements through a globally non-descript Tokyo in search of sexual data. The essay is organized into four sections or frames. The first section explores the debate on film's lost specificity in digital media convergence. The second looks at the structure of feeling that shapes postmodern criticism on the dehumanizing aesthetics of postindustrial capitalism. Section three contrasts machinic forms of sexuality with liberal and anti-liberal conceptions of sexuality as an object and technology of social regulation. And the last section questions the presumed alignment between spectator and media apparatus in phenomenological and psychoanalytic approaches to film and video. Each section relies on the multimedia, machinic world of I.K.U. to bring into relief constraints on the notion of mediation under discussion—technological, critical, sexual, or spectatorial. The conclusion argues hyperbolically for the abandonment of reductive economies of cultural visibility aimed merely at rehabilitating the racially and sexually normative human.

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