Theoretical Fashion

For Sweet Aften

"If someone wants to talk about a New World Order without taking virtual reality into consideration, they'd better keep quiet." Johan Sjerpstra

Contact between the wet and the dry is a risky business, fraught with dangers. In practice these vary from a glass of fruit juice in the toaster, a finger in an electric socket, a burst water main, to swelling passions colliding with sober incomprehension. The human body with its thin skin, hard bones and sticky fluids can be reasonably well defined as a problematic water management system whose boundaries are fluid. This aquanomy is time and again marked by pieces of cloth and scent markers as well as equipped with colorants and an aura of ramshackle social codes. These serve to prevent personal overflows from getting out of hand and cover up little accidents. The closer we get to machines, the more wet zones are reclaimed. Depending on the technological approach to the body, boundaries are laid and erotic zones defined. Shifts can be read through fashions in clothing, the dress of the wet, baggy-trousered Joe who these days goes through life dressed as a properly neat "euro-citizen". At the end of the 20th century we see this thinking bio-pump lurched back and forth, panting and spluttering, between wet and dry, loose and fixed, fleeting and firm, intoxication and reason, static and signal, suddenly functional in the electronic environment. The watering and steaming Mensch factor confronts the machinery with shocking effects. In whatever way, the unavoidable contact between the wet finger and the keyboard has incited a technological civilization offensive. Economy comes down more and more to the tightest possible interweave between social structures and electronic circuits.

Until recently, sexual boundaries marked the danger zones. Because of this there had to be, for example, separate ladies' and gentlemen's fashion. This necessity has disappeared, and so power is reaching for other means of styling fears and desires, while its own form too changes. Fascist power was once a bulwark of sexual metaphors which could be reduced to one's own firm ground and the pure, flowing blood. Divisions on grounds of sex and race, which had political and military consequences, were intended to destroy hybrids. The Cold War which followed lasted long enough for racist and sexist thinking to bleed to death. The body politics of this era, now over, were characterised by the conditioning of the body to the new machines, which were no longer driven mechanically but electronically. Space travel thus furnishes the basic model for electronic clothing, which, like power itself, has its attractive side as well as its frightening one. The first astronauts were animals, plastered with electrodes to register the reactions of the biological water management system. The futuristic spacesuit, in contrast, glitters and shines as prototype of the electronic New Order. The cosmic costume withstands the new dangerous conditions and comes out shining, offers freedom of movement, provides protection, and guarantees communication besides. This required a retraining of the body, which came no longer under the regime of religion or politics, but under the supervision of space. Extraterrestrial space travel turned out to be not an invention to become available to the consumer after a developmental phase, but an experiment to test the body's reactions under extreme conditions in an electronic situation. Here, too, the clothing was not only outward show but also dressage, and made it clear to the world population via the media what it means to be connected to a computer. The extraordinary Đ quality of this superhuman performance in extraterrestrial space convinced humanity, the folks left at home, of the resounding success a sojourn into electronic space could have. After the explosion of the Challenger and the end of the dream of space, the way was made clear for ordinary mass production of the spacesuit. It has been redubbed the datasuit, with as introductory stunt the so-called data glove. This awkward outfit offers the data worker a fascinating going-out costume, with which he can dress up any location with any identity. In this way he gets acquainted in a pleasant and noncommittal way with the new power type of the New Order. In the fin de siecle this has the following premises: as commuter traffic dissolves and national borders blur, we are entering a clean, dust-free, sterile, medicinal space, which generates its own conception of dirt. Analagous to the danger zones in the era of sexual power, the thing now is the banishment of threats to the electronic condition. Classics like narcotic drugs, stupefying liquors and suffocating hazes of smoke appear as hot items of the reclamation politics which are conveying the New Order worldwide. Essentially this means you should follow a strict anti-intoxication diet, if you want to ascend into hallucinogenic dataspace. Otherwise you'll lose the necessary concentration, and produce static. What's new about the electronic condition is the sitting still and the minimalisation of biomechanical labour. The fundamental modification in the human water condition, which as much as the Delta Plan could only have been realised under Cold War relations, causes in the introduction phase of digital hegemony a potential adjustment static, which is combatted by an aerodynamic movement program. The Citybike as fashion bicycle is an integral component of data policy, and isn't ridden by health devotees in fluorescent spacesuits for nothing. Unlike the profligate yuppies of the 80s, the euro-citizenry strives toward total moderation: of their own nutritional and media diet as well as in the area of government spending. The subsidy tap is for them the symbol of waste, which is in flagrant contradiction to their recycling mania and cost-effectiveness sense. These cosy cocooners enjoy the freedom to stay at home and their greatest concern is the data roof over their heads. Refugees, who can't be traced in the files, just have to stay in their own area, and otherwise the the UN with its developmental army can lend them a helping hand. The underlying motive for this military intervention is making global connections, which span the globe like a metastructure, healthy. In order for further expansion and innovation to happen, those who are switched-off and dataless must keep quiet and stay in their own places. To achieve this, the ghettos in the home city and the written-off social wastelands are encircled by electronic walls. Whereas on one hand, floods of illegals can undermine the New Order, the wet body is the other focus of extreme attention. At any minute one drop of bodily fluid can make the global bucket run over. After being zipped in, the wetware appears as a piss stain on the data suit, the uniform of the New Order. For wetware abhors the constant stimulation to orgasmic reaction. It wants the space and time to sit around and take it easy, not so much to win back its free time and space by conferring a new meaning on it, but merely for the static high. It stubbornly continues to practice the old art of being noncommittal, that it can be released for a moment from the terror of sensory input. The wetware, intuitively, yet with pleasure, pulls the plug, turns the knob and commits active euthanasia on its own electronic Ego. After throwing its datawear off, it flings itself into the wetwear so it can give free rein to all its wet pleasures. Outside the world of electronic representations, it can once again sop and suck, steam and sweat to its heart's content. In the data-free zones, the leaking mensch can let its emanations take their own course and ecstatically merge into the biomass. Extra-electronic traffic, however, is a source of dangers in reclaimed areas, and the electro-breaker plays a dangerous game too. Wetware runs the risk of being criminalised into waste which must be genetically recycled. The moral offensive will ensure a permanent renewal, so that the machines and the attached consciousness can function dust-free. But if the wetware wants to outsmart the reclaimers, it will evaporate prematurely into nothing and come down elsewhere as a refreshing rainshower or as a crushing water spout. Because whoever predicts dryness can expect damp.