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ENDNOTE© 2000 ISAST LEONARDO, Vol. 33, No. 2, p. 141, 2000 141 Escape Velocity: A Review Mark Dery’s book, Escape Velocity: Cyber Culture at the End of the Century (Hodder and Stoughton, 1996), will appeal to many of the readers and contributors to Leonardo. The author is a cultural critic who writes for Wired, Rolling Stone, Mondo 2000, Village Voice and the New York Times. An inspection of the book’s index reveals that a huge range of topics, scientists, artists, composers , politicians, etc. are included, but an extraordinary omission is that of Alan Turing, who should be put alongside such figures as N. Wiener, C. Babbage, Marvin Minsky, Freeman Dyson, Edward O. Wilson as scientists cited. When one has ingested the blurb one will know what one is in for; the book is replete with “weird” illustrations that may well tempt one to get into the cyborg subculture, a cousin of science fiction, rather than academic robotics, artificial intelligence or artificial life. Is it really influenced by chaos theory and fractals? It seems more a melange of prosthetic installation and forms of pop music. We get Crowley but not Hubbard! The overall flavor does strike one as sinister, a hybrid pointing to delights to come and already here, a sort of mad alchemy. It is surprising that we do not get Roger Bacon and a lot more hard science and technology if this is to be a contender for the culture of the immediate future. To dismiss all of this cybercult is obviously to be avant garde–wise incorrect. The French government have Orlan teaching at some respectable institution, and although she has not been featured in Leonardo, she will be well known to mega (or is it meta?) avant gardists. No, do not knock weirdos; prepare for the switchover to virtual reality. Try and make a connection between what it is one does (qua artiste moderne) and this challenging new ethos. Forget DIGITAL ! Everything will be, in some respect, digital soon, so do not cling to that old buzzword! In my own view the Digital Salon is the lowest Leonardo habitually sinks to. I have no conscience about describing it: almost all of it, as shown to us, is commercial kitschcrapp! Of course adverts on TV are getting smarter and are often both entertaining and innovative, but at its worst it is the Nintendo Culture, stuff for desperate kiddies! Reading these tracts, naturally sends one to the 20/20, $2000 dollar question: whither culture? But in our megapluralistic super culture, it is an “it’s up to you buddy” type answer that one has to stand up and give. Post Modernism is, surely, retrograde. But cybercult is surely the very opposite. Is there anyone amongst the Leonardo advisors, etc., into PO-MO? I suspect that I have detected at least one! But the topic has, so far, not been flushed out, perhaps it can be done soon? So, this is culture at the eve of the twenty-first century! Who wants to take it on? No problem, pressure groups and lobbies are in abundance, largely to keep the art trade in good nick, that symbiosis betwixt academia, curatoria and the art trade. ANTHONY HILL Honorary Editor ...


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