The interactive game art installation Ho... was a part of the exhibition Oh… - Jakob Lena Knebl and the mumok Collection, mumok Wien in 2017.

Ho… was a part of the exhibition Oh… – Jakob Lena Knebl and the mumok Collection, mumok Wien, 17. 3. – 22. 10. 2017.

Ho… and the Game with Reality

There are a number of well-known science-fiction scenarios of hyperreal, computer-generated worlds: the Star Trek holodeck, the simulacrum in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire, and the Matrix films by the Wachowskis are just some examples. The scientific and technical contexts may vary, but all of these play with virtual reality’s claim to be real. They deconstruct the naive idea that reality exists separately from cognition and that cognition is merely a picture of this reality. Instead, situations are envisaged in which it is not clear where the sensual stimulation originates that provokes our minds to create a picture of the world around us. Is this a utopia? Do people know that they are subject to an illusion made by a machine? In its dystopian form, it usually involves the representation of a brain in a tank of liquid, or of an evil spirit (Putnam, 1981). 

In both cases, human consciousness is seen as a system that processes information and is subjected to a form of disembodiment that is not unrelated to Descartes’s concept of the dichotomy between body and mind.

Ho… deals with implications of the disembodied body in digital systems.

Hidéo SNES, 2017

The present state of technology can already offer a foretaste of this disembodied future, in computer-aided simulations and virtual spaces in which the laws of the physical body can be expanded. The use of a cell phone, for example, not only makes it possible to virtually overcome geographical distance but also opens up completely new functional and social contexts and opportunities (Burkart, 2000). Even if the real distance between interacting bodies (and thus the interaction with something with no substance) is by no means irrelevant, this is not necessarily a case of the simulation of an immaterial Brave New World, but the constitution and the design of a new social component in the world.

A body with no substance is transformed by virtual representation into an avatar, a being that is divorced of its physical context and determinants and is defamiliarized. This means that it would not be right to assume that an avatar going by the name of BigBoobs93 would be commensurate with a woman with large secondary sexual characteristics. Instead, this body with no substance offers the possibility of a nearly perfect disguise that in this case serves as a projection surface for desire and fantasy.

In this way, constructs of identity that can be inscribed into the body in ways that run counter to established social hierarchies, such as social gender, are gaining significance via-à-vis traditional constructs such as biological sex, enabling us to seriously challenge conventional and canonized concepts. (Butler, 1990)

The body is losing its sense of “stability” and “naturalness” and is becoming a project of active and unlimited forming and fashioning. It exists within a space of opportunity that, however, merely seems to be infinite. The subversive potential of doubt should not be underestimated, but traditional values are only really overturned in very few cases. The space of opportunity is actually reduced to repeatedly recreating still effective hierarchies and endlessly corresponding to and reflecting these anew.

The topic of Ho… – the digital body – is also explored in Hidéo SNES’ art-game
Drifting With Winds.


The installation Ho… was part of Oh… Jakob Lena Knebl and the mumok Collection: “Artist Jakob Lena Knebl (born in 1970 in Baden) has no interest in thinking in predefined categories, neither in her life nor in her art. Her highly creative new arrangement of the mumok collection of modernist and contemporary art is on show from March 17, 2017, on two levels of the museum, presented together with her own new works. The artist has the courage to be eccentric.”