Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis

Code Poetry Library, Conclusion

In a poetic mode, I have described both Kara Keeling’s black femme function and Janelle Monae’s ability to dance between identities through code poetry in my performance of “Femme Disturbance” at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics31. The code poems follow.

femmeDisturbance.keeling.blackFemmeFunction () {
delete visibility;
if( commonSense.disrupt(racist) && commonSense.disrupt(sexist) && commonSense.disrupt(heteronormative) )
//once these forms of commonsense have been disrupted
//exit this entire computational paradigm and
//split off into a new imaginary computational system
//yet to be defined
fork(blackFemme(revolutionary, anticapitalist));


delete race;
delete gender;
delete humanity;

while ( perform(androidNotHuman) ) {
miscegenate( human );

Looking to an algorithmic model of identity that can represent shifting, we may want to replace “I = Another” with “I = x” where x is a variable that can change over time, iteratively, perhaps being replaced with possibilities Keeling offers such as “you”, “us”, or “I”. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Lisa Nakamura have also considered the possibilities of race as code or “a technology and a mode of mediatization”32. By focusing on the moment of shifting, as made visible by Monae, the algorithmic moment of changing identities and embodiments replaces any static identification. One could look to the assembly language instructions that might comprise a line of C code such as “x = 1;” to see the inner workings of this moment of identity, or the voltages that make up lines of assembly language that Chun uses to point blur the distinctions of analog and digital33. Or one could look to the pixel color and location blending algorithms of software that creates digital video morphs such as those in Monae’s video, or the video compression algorithms in the code of the Netflix player that create the illusion of smooth movement in Laverne Cox’s scenes in Orange is the New Black, or the Javascript code that makes the pages of this Scalar book fade in and out. Or, in an effort to decolonize technology, one could understand an algorithm for shifting between identities to be a series of steps, describable in any number of languages, and as analogous to a prayer, a ritual or a game. Doing so may provide a path towards a decolonial strategy for identity shifting that can evade the colonial logics of necropolitics.

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