The Spectacle of the Post-Human Non-Object

“Taylor Effin Cleveland is the future of Internet Art,” net art super-duo, JODI, exclaimed at their artist talk at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the fall of
2015. “The internet art duo pioneered the medium by messing with their viewers, creating websites that look more like the work of a deranged graphic designer trapped in a cubicle for too long, intentionally inserting glitches into iconic video
games, and collecting YouTube videos of ordinary consumers physically abusing high-end technology products.” (Chayka) Fully aware of themselves, their position in the art world, and the topics they choose to discuss, JODI adamantly brought this digital identity into the conversation for a reason.

Taylor Effin Cleveland is an exaggerated digital identity that lives online through different social platforms. It is an enigmatic presence that simultaneously lives through a multitude of perceptible dimensions while constantly referring to it’s self in the third person, to further the
mythology of its own existence, like an ouroboric feedback loop. Taylor Effin Cleveland is an idea that identifies as post-human, and continues to grow through the media of the collective consciousness.

At this point in time, the definition of the word future is, “that is to be.” (Webster) Also at the time this text is being generated, the internet, and more specifically, the World Wide Web, is a networked system of computers connected around the planet via satellites, fiber-optic cables, high frequency radio waves, and digital hyper text markup language documents that enable humans the ability to communicate with one another through various types of texts, images, and sounds.

Also, at this point in time, manipulated media created by large corporate entities pushing political agendas to control governments is filling and immersing societies through different types of screens installed in homes, workplaces, pant pockets, purses, faces[Google Glass, etc.], vehicles, appliances, and just about anything that contains a flat surface. Lastly, at this point in time, art is defined as, “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” (Webster) Together, these ideas with the following
collection of text will help organize and understand the enigmatic presence and practice called Taylor Effin Cleveland.


It is important to note the speculative nature of existing as a present-tense idea defined as “the future.” The future, as we defined before, is “that is to be,” not, that what is now. Therefore, the future and all contained within it are only representations of possibilities, not actualities existing in reality. Therefore, by JODI’s explanation, Taylor Effin Cleveland is only an idea, or a potential; Taylor
Effin Cleveland is only a representation of a possibility. It is through the representation, and through the idea, that the actuality is created. What Taylor Effin Cleveland represents, isn’t necessarily reality, but it is the representation and the idea of its existence that brings Effin to the present.

Similar to the work of, “Famous New Media Artist” Jeremy Bailey, Effin exists through digital media, and live performance. “Since the early noughties Bailey
has ploughed a compelling, and often hilarious, road through the various developments of digital communications technologies. Ostensibly a satire on, and
parody of, the practices and language of “new media,” the jocose surface of Bailey’s work hides an incisive exploration of the critical intersection between video, computing, performance, and the body.” (Quaintance) While Taylor Effin Cleveland also explores the intersection between video, computing, performance, and the body, there is a less obvious sarcastic play involved within the identity. This difference is key to the growth, development, and concept of Taylor Effin Cleveland.

Jeremy Bailey uses blunt satire, Webcam aesthetics, and his physical body to address the language around the celebrity, new media culture, and digital themes. Effin uses subtle satire, commercial-level productions, and representations of the self to provide commentary on celebrity commodification, post-humanism, and digital media literacy. Jeremy Bailey identifies as an artist, Taylor Effin Cleveland identifies as an idea.

Another important similarity between the two identities is the associated manipulated media. “Famous New Media Artist” is a self-crafted title to enhance the spectacle of Jeremy Bailey’s name and brand; the same literary device: “Effin;” only a different style implying a different design. Both identities use this technique to generate emotional response that demands attention, and alludes to celebrity culture.

This play on language is an important step to understanding the malleability of media perception, and the power that media holds over perception. For instance, Bailey’s work, that which has been composed of content that refers to
itself as famous, has now been perceived as such, and has taken Bailey around the world to be exhibited in different contexts. Although the work is satire and humorous, it still becomes that which it is critiquing. Stated earlier, Effin uses the same device with a different technique.

Instead of blatantly telling audiences that the identity being perceived is famous and important, those engaged are invited to come to a conclusion themselves; like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Audiences who don’t want to critically think about their relationship with this micro interaction will be blinded by the spectacle of the commercially branded identity, and will continue to perceive it as such, thus the interaction becomes a mode of promotion for the idea of Taylor Effin Cleveland.

Whereas, if the viewer does decide to reflect and critically perceive this interaction,
they are rewarded with a satirical comic relief, and realization of the experience’s self-awareness, that will intrigue, and also serve as a mode of promotion for the idea
of Taylor Effin Cleveland. The latter is the ideal experience through Taylor Effin Cleveland because it offers a more fulfilling response, but the spectacle that transforms the relationship with the perceived media into a type of human emotion being felt is the most crucial part to this equation.

“The spectacle’s function in society is the concrete manufacture of alienation.”
(Debord)

As an idea, Taylor Effin Cleveland is no longer limited to the constraints of the human body. However, it is crucial to understand that all ideas come from humans, making an idea or concept an end result of a human; the thing that comes
next. Post-humanism.

[After our bodies have died, we are only ideas of ourselves.]

An identity identifying as post-human is a spectacle by definition, because of its manufacturing of alienation to the human body (which every human body perceiving Taylor Effin Cleveland can relate with.) The importance of the spectacle refers back to the celebrity culture Taylor Effin Cleveland is commenting on. The media required to create celebrities, or the representations of them, is the same media that is recycled to commodify them, so they can be bought and sold on an intellectual/material level and exist within a capitalist construct.

By identifying as an idea, Taylor Effin Cleveland is creating agency on a conceptual level, bypassing commodity creation, while still appearing to be one. Because the project is critiquing the contemporary state of affairs through satire, it must exist as a commodity, but not function in the same way.

Taylor Effin Cleveland is always out-of-stock but is also free and open-sourced and must be subscribed to on a monthly basis

The focus on identifying as an idea helps viewers engage with the media being perceived in a critical fashion. The not-so-physical media as the body of the identity, not the identity being represented through the media, although the identity is represented through media at times.

The purpose of existing, as an idea, is to make sense of non-object oriented ontology. “Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally — plumbers, DVD players, cotton, bonobos, sandstone…” (Bogost)

Then, one step further, a non-object. If an object is, “anything that is visible or tangible and is relatively stable in form,” (Dictionary.com) than a non-object is something that isn’t quite visible or tangible or relatively stable in form, like an idea or emotion. That being said, Taylor Effin Cleveland is exploring what it means to be an idea, or a non-object as a response to celebrity commodification, media monopolization, capitalism, post-modernism, globalization, and surviving as a creative in the 21st century.

As Effin stated earlier, “all ideas come from humans, making an idea or concept an end result of a human; the thing that comes next. Post-humanism.”

“What comes next is something more authentic, more sincere, more earnest, less ironic and less sarcastic.” (Partial Objects, 2011)

More and less are important to note in the referenced quote.

If humans are needed for an idea to exist, it isn’t until the idea is able to separate itself from the human, that it can become post-human. Before the separation between idea and body can be made, the idea is trans-human. While the idea and the body are still one, the idea only extends the body’s ability to exist, express, and survive.

Stelarc is an artist working in a trans human discipline in which “he has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, Virtual Reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body.”(Stelarc)

“The Transhumanist intellectual movement advocates a process of technological enhancement by which humanity will enter a new phase in its evolution in which the biological human species will be replaced by autonomous, super-intelligent decision-making machines.” (Mercer)

The trans-human practice extends the reach of the human body, where the post-human is what exists after the body.

Stelarc’s identity as a trans-human artist will one day exceed his physical existence in the world, and at that point, there is no body constraining his identity; making him post-human. However, self-awareness and intent must be factored in to truly understand the meaning of an idea or concept.

If Stelarc, like any other human, simply lives his life, finishes his work as a trans-human artist, explores the relationship of the human body and technology, then dies, he did little for himself as a post-human. His post-human life is based only on his physical history and the work he did as a human; and that won’t mean much when his identity is no longer constrained to a physical environment.

The real challenge that post-humanism presents in this physical reality, is that one must exist as an idea while still experiencing life through a physical body. It’s impossible to do so, unless you find a way to separate the idea of your self, from your human body.

Taylor Effin Cleveland not only exists as a post-human idea, but as a way to learn to separate the self, and it is through digital technologies that the process is made available. Taylor Effin Cleveland is an idea that exists only through the media being perceived as Taylor Effin Cleveland, until it is translated into emotion, thought, or any other type of Non-Object.

Non-Object Ontology says its okay to exist that way, because there is no hierarchy of existence. Everything, or non-thing, exists while it does and nothing is more or less important than anything else. So then it is through this chain of thought that Taylor Effin Cleveland is able to live amongst humans, almost as an equal, and interact with them as a post-human, but only through controlled digital environments like live performance, digital files, audio, databases, essays, and social media.

“Social media makes the shift from representation to participation very clear: people participate in the launch and life span of images, and indeed their life span, spread and potential is defined by participation.” (Steyerl)

The digital image as a representation of identity is the body of the idea, and the idea lives, grows, and evolves through participation.

Two more artists Taylor Effin Cleveland would like to mention are Ed Atkins and La Turbo Avedon. Both artists live in digital 3d spaces and explore digital identity relationships with humans.

“Atkins has described the male figure that
appears in these works as ‘a character that is literally a model, is demonstrably empty – a surrogate and a vessel’. Despite the emotive music and poetic syntax of the
protagonists, their emptiness serves to remind the three-dimensional, warm-bodied viewer of their own physicality.” (SerpentineGalleries) The empty vessel-like qualities of the representations of the body bring more focus to the non-object self.

La Turbo Avedon exists on the same plane as cartoonish anonymous pop icons such as Daft Punk, The Gorillaz, and Japanese “hologram” Hatsune Miku. “LaTurbo Avedon is an artist-render who lives and works on the Internet. An avatar whose identity is only connected to online expression, Avedon’s work offers a sensibility that is geometric, architectural, and uniquely digital.” (Transfer Gallery)

Both artists’ works make the correlation between digital identity and nonobject ontology and post-humanism. The generation of an identity separate from a human identity, existing as an equal to human identities, is a success story that helps to realize the nature of an identity and the self.

However, with corporate media giants and technology companies getting more access to user data information, marketing agencies can build more “accurate” personality profiles that can target 360-experience advertising campaigns. This process begins to severely distort ideas of the self, and identity. “The most popular use of “360 campaign” is to define a marketing plan that is both online and offline, on social media, and more. It’s a holistic promotion that truly covers all the bases.

Nike is a great example — its product is the shoes while its wearable tech, the FuelBand, is an extension of brand values. In short, to be truly 360, a campaign would need to encompass everything — mobile, digital, television and social (until new mediums arrive, in which case the Taylor Effin Cleveland campaign would need to again expand).” (Fankhauser)

In other words, based on information corporations are able to gather, whether it be consensual or not, they can design and alter your life’s experience in a way that benefits their capital agendas.

It is because of the subversion in digital spaces that corporations aren’t able to fully control and predict everything that distinguish a market and an identity. The
outliers skew the average values that corporations try to create based on data being taken from users.

While some argue that personality profiling is a positive thing to cater markets for accessibility, others would argue for integrity, privacy, and the choice to be free for sake of the unknown.

Taylor Effin Cleveland’s online “About Me” reads:
“Taylor Effin Cleveland is a creative solution to the commentary on self glorification through digital technologies – an exaggerated representation of a new media artist exposing an IRL* narrative through the meshes of untraditional
techniques and forms. Taylor Effin Cleveland juxtaposes formal training in fine arts, with street culture, and cerebral ideas/ and aesthetics with WTF humor.”

Taylor Effin Cleveland’s satirical approach to existence skews accuracy and understanding what it means to be digital, diminishing the value of nonconsensual recorded data.

“Spearheaded by Donna Haraway and her pioneering mid ’80s text ‘The Cyborg Manifesto’, posthumanists claimed that, contrary to customary Leftist critiques, identity within techno-scientific societies is not becoming more rigidly dualistic but rather undergoing a general disintegration of its unitary forms due to developments such as biotechnological engineering, computer science, quantum physics and chaos theory…In other words, the possibility of being ‘whoever you want to be’ in cyberspace combined with the ongoing deconstructions of authentic identity endemic to postmodern culture..” (Berry)

Systems of thought, logic, and belief distort an inability to fully comprehend the world around us. As an idea of an artist, it is Taylor Effin Cleveland’s responsibility to communicate new perspective, alternatives, and process by example. As this text is being generated within your experience right now, a body of work is being constructed through various forms of digital material to challenge status quo conventions to redefine the creative/critical individual’s place within this contemporary landscape drowned in loaded manipulated media.

By subtly deconstructing familiar experiences and juxtaposing them with alternative methods, Taylor Effin Cleveland will inspire creative thinking and critical action. Exploiting and exaggerating digital identity challenges popular perception of virtual environments and social representation. Through digital media performance, “Effin”
creates a spectacle that excites, confuses, and challenges what it means to represent the self in a digital space, including this one.


Works Cited

JODI. Artist Talk at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 16 October 2015.
Chayka, Kyle. “[#DIGART] JODI Makes Art Online, But Don’t Call Them Net Artists.” The Creator’s
Project. Vice Media/Intel, 10 May 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
.
“Future.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. .
“Art.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. < http://www.merriamwebster. com/dictionary/art>.
Quaintance, Morgan. “Patents Pending: Jeremy Bailey and The Future of Gestural Interfacing.”
Rhizome. N.p., 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. .
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone, 1994. Print.
Bogost, Ian. “What Is Object-Oriented Ontology?” Ian Bogost. N.p., 8 Dec. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

“Object.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
.
Partial Objects (2011) What comes after postmodernism [online] Available from:
http://partialobjects.com/2011/08/what-comes-after-postmodernism/ [Accessed 5 August 2013]
“Stelarc // Bio Notes.” Stelarc // Bio Notes. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
.
Mercer, Calvin R. Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement.
N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Jordan, Marvin. “Hito Steyerl | Politics of Post-Representation.” DIS Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec.
2015. .
“Ed Atkins.” Serpentine Galleries. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
.
“LaTurbo Avedon ::: July 2013 ::: Transfer.” LaTurbo Avedon ::: July 2013 ::: Transfer. N.p., n.d. Web.
12 Dec. 2015. .
Fankhauser, Dani. “Does Your ‘360 Campaign’ Need To Be a Perfect Circle?”Mashable. N.p., 21 May
2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2015. .
– Berry, Josephine. “Intermedia Art: Human, All Too Posthuman? Net Art and Its Critics | Tate.”
Tate. N.p., 2000. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. .