The Paleotechnology of Telephones and Screens
On the Ecstatic Permeability of the Interior
Keywords:ecstatic experience, imagination, Palaeolithic art, teletechnology
This article argues that the essentials of the complex relationship between interiority and exteriority, and the mediating role of teletechnology, are already present in the interiors of Paleolithic caves. As philosopher Maxine Sheets-Johnstone argues in The Roots of Thinking (1990), cave art emerged from the primal fascination with ‘being inside.’ Yet at the same time, these first interiors were most likely created to establish a form of communication with an exterior, the ‘augmented reality’ of the spirit world, made possible through rudimentary technological and biological extensions. It also required a specific use of the spatial qualities of these caves, both sensory and atmospheric. This complex hybrid constellation of interior space, the human body and (psycho)technology created a permeability between different human and non-human actors. According to prehistorian Jean Clottes in Pourquoi l’art préhistorique (2011), the ‘permeability’ between inner and outer worlds is indeed one of the concepts that are crucial to understanding the Paleolithic human outlook on the environment, and is a concept which is still relevant today.
Ever since these animistic Paleolithic works of art, teletechnology reveals what philosopher and literary theorist Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei calls, in The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature (2007), the ‘ecstatic’ side of the quotidian. In this article, I follow the traces of this animistic, ecstatic experience in literature, in Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood around 1900 (1932-8) and Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (1913-1927), and in cinematography, in Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983). The imagination of now outdated technologies creates a kind of anachronistic, defamiliarizing perspective that helps to grasp the animistic, mythical dimension of our daily domestic immersion in contemporary teletechnologies (from video chats to ASMR-videos). These anachronistic experiences we find in art allow us to better reflect on the ecstatic role of media-technology in relation to our spatial and psychological interiors, and the (psycho)technological conditions of contemporary dwelling in the interiors of the communication age.
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