• Berlin
  • What is a “cyborg”, anyway?


What is a “cyborg”, anyway?

INTERVIEW. Disruption Network Lab partnered up with Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien for a conference on May 29 and 30, all about the meaning of the word “cyborg”. Cyborg and transgender activist Helena Velena answers our questions on cyberfeminism.

Image for What is a

INTERVIEW. Disruption Network Lab partnered up with Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien for a conference on May 29 and 30, all about the meaning of the word “cyborg”. Tatiana Bazzichelli and Daniela Silvestrin curated two days of talks and films to protest power structures embedded in modern technology. We tracked down Helena Velena, a cyborg and transgender hacktivist presenting at the festival. In the 1980s, when she wasn’t playing in Berlin with her band RAF Punk, she wrote some of the first material on cybersex theory and practice. Now she’s back in Berlin to tell us why we need cyberfeminism today.

How did you come to be involved with Disruption Network Lab?

In Italy, I was one of the first people that decided to work in internet technology. I’ve always been involved in the punk movement, and for me, the internet was a way to talk about sexuality and transgender topics, a form of liberation and identity expression. What I try to do is create a means of having a real sexual experience using the internet as a remote connector. Tatiana came across my work and my books and invited me to a conference about technology in Berlin.

So who exactly is a “cyborg”?

Cyborg means that you blend technology and flesh and blood. You become a different type of person. We are cyborgs because we have synthetic implants, contact lenses. Your body is linked with technology. It’s a figure that exists in reality.

Why do we need cyberfeminism in the virtual world? 

To me, cyberfeminism should destroy the notion of male or female by blending the two together. In Italy, the Vatican is trying to feminise women because they are losing the battle over gay rights. They are trying every possible form to fight feminism and social activism. To fight that, we have to be extreme, too. The true meaning of anarchy is not part of left-wing politics. Not everything coming from the left is good, not everything coming from the right is bad. Inside everything you have a little bit of the opposite. We have to blend. Cyberfeminism is a weapon of mass creation, of a new form of freedom. The freedom to take whatever you want from whatever exists. Donna Harroway wrote about the idea of the cyborg manifesto, but then the traditional feminist movement rejected it. People weren’t ready to embrace it.

Are people ready now?

No. They are less and less ready, which is why we need to be more active about changing that perception. People think that you have flesh and blood on one side and technology on the other. But they’re not opposites. They need to be fused together. We are going into a world that is more and more reactionary. We have to fight.

What do you hope to accomplish at the Cyborg conference?

Everyone is abusing the word freedom. And so I want to go back to the original significance of the word. I want to transmit to people the freedom to be what they really want to be. Free your body through technology, through music, through sex. In the words of Funkadelic: “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”

Cyborg, May 29, 17:00; May 30, 16:00  | Kunstquartier Bethanien, Studio 1, Mariannenplatz 2, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Görlitzer Bahnhof