transsecting the BBB

*This is a post for the wanton dumping of all the information, thoughts, sketches, research, brains and guts of the BBB project.  It will eventually be collated into a website of sorts, and if the works proposed actually come about, documentations of all the process work, gallery activities and post-show comments and feedback will all be packaged nicely into one easily swallowed pill.  This project is an extension of the ideas developed during the Art and the Brain course in 2012, where my project entitled “Fixatives for the Prevention of the Other (administered as a prophylactic panacea for volatile and un-scholarly infatuation)”  was shunned upon by members of the advising committee.

In the end, it will be shot through a brain with a BB gun, with a capsule that is shaped like an M&M, made of extracts from the exoskeleton of a dungeness crab, loaded with a viral DNA that inseminates the current mind with verbal anecdotes of my life, and performs its singular duty of a fecund progenitor of prodigious and unconsciously propagated memes.

auto-immunity has been described by cultural theorist Donna Haraway as a method of self-determination in the presence of the other.  Who is this other, and how does that redefine the nature of the ‘universal’ or the underlying notion of homology and homogenity at the atomic scale, where swarms of swarms collectively group together seemingly without boundary.  At the human scale, notions of boundary are particularly pronounced – inter-gender, inter-species, inter-occupational, all play a role in what can be considered to be an artificial division of space and time.  What are the geo-politics of the body, what are areas that are of limits – to who, and why? and what happens if these limits are traversed, tricked, manipulated.

What are the boundaries in biological systems that assert the notions of a organismic self?

“In mammals, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) provides a complex obstacle to the penetration of drugs into the central nervous system (CNS). The first level of barrier is presented by the tight junctions between endothelial cells of the vasculature. These high resistance tight junctions, made up by proteins such as claudin-5 and ZO-1, render brain capillary endothelia tightly sealed, in contrast to “leaky” endothelial capillaries in the periphery. Thus, there is no paracellular movement of fluid and only minimal pinocytosis from capillaries into the CNS [1]. The next level of barrier function is provided by capillary pericytes, which wrap around the endothelial cells of the capillary walls. Lastly, the outermost layer comprises astrocyte end feet which surround the endothelium and pericytes. In addition to providing a physical barrier, these three cell types express a variety of enzymes, such as aminopeptidases, carboxypeptidases, endopeptidases and cholinesterases, which inactivate many drugs [2], and in some cases, may also activate pro-drugs. In spite of these physical and enzymatic barriers, certain molecules are able to freely diffuse across the BBB, but are prevented from accumulating in the brain as they are actively effluxed by specific transporters, the most notable of which is P-glycoprotein (Pgp) [1]. Conversely, inwardly directed transporter systems, such as GLUT1/Slc2a1 (glucose transport), Slc7a1 and Slc7a5 (amino acids), low-density lipoprotein receptors (LRPs) and ion pumps, permit the entry of a variety of molecules that would otherwise be unable to enter the brain [1].”

“Functional Characterization of the Maturation of the Blood-brain barrier in Larval Zebrafish” Fleming et.all. (2013)

The blood brain barrier though endogenously evolved as a road block for transgressive particles from the outside, is not the only form of exclusion or exclusivity that the body has invested in for the maintenance of it self-ness.  Perhaps this exclusiveity of the self is seen most potent in the formation of the blastocyte in the newly formed zygote.  In its migration from the ovary to the uterus, it momentarily develops a unique glycoprotein layer known as the zona pellucida that protects the zygote from further penetration by other sperm, temporarily distinguishing itself, a celebration of independence as it were, from the mother, and from the outside world.

What constitutes this zona pellucida and how does it compare to modern glycoproteins that are able to deliver medicines directly through the vascular transport systems in the body?  What are its antibacterial/antiviral properties?  How does a cell develop a way to distinguish itself from its surrounding environment?

What about DNA then?  It becomes indistinguishable, but popular culture is only just beginning to cool down from the DNA hype that posits these chromosome strands as the quintessential determinant of a person’s phenotypic character.   So what?  So now with research into the way DNA self-organizes, we are beginning to use DNA with non-biological uses.  For instance?  It can be used to build from bottom up 2-D and 3-D structures with nanometer-scale addressability.  *crazy.  how does this change what we believe to be DNA fingerprinting?  it’s just chemistry.  but it itsn’t, is it, since this is something so interwoven into the fabric of our personalities – it’s an attempt to resolve the confusion when scientists, psychologists and sociologists use terms like ‘self’… but as with other terms like ‘consciousness’, ‘memory’, ‘the environment’, there is no convincing model for any of these commonly taken-for-granted phenomenon of human living.

THIRD ORDER CYBERNETICS – on SELF-REGULATION AND a critical look at the ‘self” or of the “subjectivity of the observer”

what’s wrong or inadequate with 2nd order?  — recap : 2nd order cybernetics refers to the entrance of the self as integral to the system, acknowledging the presence of the observer as an actant or instigator in the system : the very act of observation, and the epistemological tools used influences the observed phenomenon, leading Fritzof Capra to herald a change from observable science to epistemic science in “Systems theory and the new Paradigms”.  He quotes Heisenberg to say “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our way of questioning”

This internalization of the observer’s “methodology”, a critical monitoring of ‘who’ is observing is where previous notions of cybernetics have neglected – of surveillance politics, of ecological ethics, even inter-species relationships – semiotics of communication beyond human (and for that matter, immediately sensory) umwelts.   The 2O assumes that “no one can know best”, ” reality is not accessible” and “no one has have the ultimate perspective”..

Maturana warns us that the use of the notion of “reality” – the Real Thing – is a step in an argument to persuade, induce or compel agreement in another who already does not agree with your position.

Vincent Kenny’s problematizing of the ‘self’:

1. Recalling von Glaserfiedl’s analysis, which shows that there is no way to “observe the self.

2. Similaryl recalling Varela’s views on the fact that the “Self” is not found when we try to locate it or pin it down.

3. Recalling that we have no privileged access to the outside world via the sense of touch

4. As a corollary to the previous point, stressing that we have no privileged access to our “inside world” either. (REALLY??)

1/ makes a distinction between one’s “experience”, and “oneself-as-experiencer” on the other.  The whole complex is still subjective.  What are the implications of reflexivity?  1. what about humans observing non-human phenomena? 2. There is no longer any way that the observer can rely upon independently existing sources of validation.  Instead, attention much shift to the consensual agreements in the observer community regarding the criteria for acceptability of any given affirmation or negation 000 implying that the observer is not only responsible for bringing forth a world, but also for the process of “self-invention” – both in the sense of inventing the notion of “being a self” as a convenient fiction, and also in the sense of contunuously reproducing the characteristics which identify him as the “self-same” person recognizable to himself and to others as that person living at the same experiential address

Maturana (1987) — . . .stating that the use of the term “self-organizing” in relation to autopoesis was a mistake.  Organization is a spontaneous phenomenon that remains invariant as long as the system conserves its class identity.  In other words, there is no “self” entity that operates upon itself as if at a distance from itself-as-a-system – as if making efforts to maintain its organisation coherence intact.

[this is a hard sell]

4.  Without any privileged access to our “inside world”  — no objective way to distinguish ‘perception’ from ‘hallucination’.

“We not only live in the two non-collapsable domains of Experience and Explanations, as Maturana repeats; he also maintains that we are unable to distinguish “perception” from “hallucination” at the moments of experiencing an event- not even in matters corporeal. .

The issue comes to the fore in the clinical  events cited below, where people demand a surgical reconstruction of their body based on their conclusions that one or more of their actual limbs are “non-self” – or belong to someone else, not to them.

“There are many examples of clinical problems that raise important questions about having ‘privileged access’ to our own inner experiences.  At the root of many disturbing clinical presentations lie confused epistemological assumptions about ‘bodyhood’ and ‘experiencing’.  The bodily sense of ‘touch’ can be subject to a range of unusual psychophysiological experiences, ranging from dilemmas in the area of transsexualism and sex-reassignment, to the well-known phenomena of the amputee who ‘feels’ his limb to still be present (phantom limb), and to the less well -known phenomena where a person feels that his actual limb is not ‘his own’ but is entirely ‘other’ to his bodyhood – and engages in a medico-legal struggle to have the offending limb amputated.  In recent years new medico-legal issues have been raised when there were cased of able-bodied persons who have succeeded in having perfectly healthy limbs amputated.. .

I believe that many problems and confusions are generated out of the common but erroneous assumption that we do have a privileged access to our own inner world of experiencing that our senses generate in our bodyhood.  It becomes crucially important in each clinical case to distinguish between, on the one hand, ‘distortions of bodily experiencing’ and , on the other hand, ‘cognitive distortions’ in the domain of explanations” (Kenny 2008: 77)

from Vincent Kennt “There’s nothing Like the Real Thing, Revisiting The Need for a Third-Order Cybernetics” in Constructivist Foundations Volume 4. No.2 March 2009 pp100-111.

“we have the capacity for ‘self-consciousness’ meaning that we can become aware of our own mental processes, and furthermore, that each individual knows unerringly that these mental states are his own.  It is precisesly this sense of own-ership of the mental processes ocurring within the bodyhood (existential address) of the human person that we wish to bring into question.  This is not merely to make a critique of the concept of ‘self-consciousness’ as ‘self’ – contradictory i.e. a phenomenon which ‘owns’ the mental states cannot at the same time be manifested as a mental state.  We wish to go much further than this and insist that this certainty of ‘ownership’ is the final resort of realism, of objectivity without parenthesis.  Accordingly, we want to insist that the notion of the ‘self’ functions, at best, as a type of fictive hypothesis which, perhaps over time, is expanded into a comprehensive theory (or even paradigm) which pragmatically ‘works’ to cover or encompass the greatly diverse experiences which flow through our bodyhood as we live from moment-to-moment and day by day.  The theory acts to render this diversity as order and relative harmony”

von Forster on the management of ignorance (to aid the reflexive monitoring of subjectivites):

it has been observed that the majority of the American people cannot speak.  This is interpreted by saying that they are ‘silent’.  I say they are mute.  However, as you all know very well, there is nothing wrong with the vocal tract of those who are mute: the cause of their muteness is deafness.  Hence, the so-called ‘silent’ majority is de facto a ‘deaf majority’.

“However the most distressing thing in this observation is that there is again nothing wrong with their auditory system; they could hear if they wanted to: but they don’t want to.  Their deafness is voluntary, and in others it is their blindness…

“. . . The tragedy in these exmaples is that the victims of ‘dysgnosis’ not only do not know that they don’t see, hear, or feel, they also do not want to” (von Foerster, 1984:Observing Systems 200-201)

apart from subjectivity, there is also the issue of transfection – the parasitic or predatory instinct of forcefully inserting the ‘self’ – the rape.  In plants there is an exchange of RNA that could be linked to communication.

—— What are materials that are biocompatible, and their uses?

[Biocompatibility is the ability of a material to interface with a natural substance without provoking a natural response. The human body typically responds to contact with synthetic materials by depositing proteins and cells from body fluids at the surface of the materials. This can cause infection and biological rejection of devices manufactured from non-compatible materials. The majority of today’s medical devices are made from materials such as PVC, polypropylene, polycarbonate, fluorinated plastics and stainless steel. These materials are ‘tolerated’ by the human body and are described as ‘bioinert’.]

Silicon (wafers for inplantable devices, such as neural prosthesis) [beaten out aluminum nitride, borosilicate glass, sapphire, platinum, silicon and iridium oxide as material for biocompatability] — how to test = search for (1) deformation of the brain, (2) inflammatory response in the meninges and underlying tissue, and (3) degeneration of the cortical neurons or their efferent and afferent connections.

But bulk silicon by itself is not biocompatable nor biostable, on the other hand, porous nanostructured silicon.
—–> use as semi-conductor material especially for bio-sensing

graphene – as artificial retinas :

What about self within the community? —

the idea of the ‘average man’ was described in the 1842 publication “A Treatise on Man and the Development of his Faculties” by M.A.Quetelet

Stigma –


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