There are few interactions more intense than sex. And I mean good sex. Not the kind of sex where you’re lying on your back just taking it. Being a supine host for an unaccomplished zealot is no fun. But when you want to taste and inhale your partner, and they return that same lust, what forms is a chemical experience doused in sweaty ecstasy. This kind of sex might be the ultimate interaction. In the cybersexual universes of Shu Lea Cheang this is an undisputed fact, and it is big industry.
Cheang makes tech-fetish sci-fi porn movies that turns data consumption into a liquid activity. Bodies are injected, orgasms are collected, sensations are transfused from machine to flesh, and vice versa. Her visions of the future see data as a white stream of semen, itself packed with information, carrying it from one vessel to another. The orgasm becomes the catalyst to transmission and everybody wants to be connected.
Right now, Cheang is trying to raise funds via Kickstarter for FLUIDØ, a film of her jacked-up vision that takes place in a BioNet era—apps are bodily liquids, organs are re-engineered, and the body becomes hardware itself composed of tubes that can be hacked into (both physically and technically). It’s also set in a post-AIDS era, following years of experiments by pharmaceutical companies, which has led to gender fluid ZERO GEN humans who have genetically evolved to carry a bio-drug inside them. This drug has become the “hypernarcotic for the 21st century” and is, of course, found in their ejaculate. It’s the new sexual commodity.
FLUIDØ as a film concept is over 10 years old, it being on hold since the company that would have originally funded it went bankrupt. This crowdfunding effort hopes to bring it alive once again. Where it finds any gusto is on the promise of more of Cheang’s imagination. Anticipation is gleaned from her 2000 cult sci-fi porn film I.K.U., which alone proves her status as celluloid’s cybersex queen. For those not familiar with I.K.U., Cheang has released two short clips from the film to introduce its hypnotic images, those that swirl its world of sex into thick colors, merging gender-blurred porn actors, a heavy VHS aesthetic, late-’90s computer graphics, and the occasional slip into anime.
You can see those clips below but, be warned, they feature nudity and are therefore NSFW.
Simply put, I.K.U. is a film in which replicants have dildos for arms, meandering between subjects as they collate sex energy for corporate databases. When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000, people walked out. A lot of them. About forty percent of the audience rose out of their chairs and left according to Cheang. They were shocked. As the film’s subtitle says, and what that audience must have missed, is that I.K.U. is not love, it is sex. But what the departed missed out on is I.K.U.‘s treatment of sex as something more than titillation. It is an evolution of sex. It understands the power of the act, especially in its use with new technologies, which are always proven by their facilitation of porn (virtual reality porn was at the top of the list for the Oculus Rift, for example). Sex is used as a measurement of a machine’s advances.
I.K.U. is commonly referred to as a post-Blade Runner film, as its “mix of sensation and suggestion is perfectly suited to the post-hypertext world of post-verbal storytelling,” according to Rhizome‘s Ruby Rich. It pulls you into this world of pure feeling, as a viewer, with its “throbbing techno soundtrack, [plunging you] directly into the action by the animation tunnels that materialize at the onset of arousal,” Rich continues.
It’s also a film that’s post-videogame. It invites you to dive into the screen. Inside is a world where the spaces that distance our bodies from the electronic entertainment we interact with has been sealed as tight as a duck’s ass. The human-machine relationship has been made internal and forever by our new cyborg lives. I.K.U. communicates all this with its swathes of close-up liquids and naked human bodies, with the animated computer interfaces and washed-out digital effects, all of it interlaced as if it were part of an orgy-induced dream. As Rich also writes, it sees “pornography and science fiction, film and video and computer, matinee and late-night, gallery and porn arcade, all merge into a single movie experience.” Cheang and her films don’t want you to play, they want you to come get fucked.
You can support FLUIDØ on Kickstarter.