Thursday, 1 September 2011

Modern Primitives

Modern primitives or urban primitives are people in developed nations who engage in body modification rituals and practices while making reference or homage to the rite of passage practices in "primitive cultures" These practices may include body piercing, tattooing, play piercing, flesh hook suspension, corset training, scarification, branding, and cutting. The motivation for engaging in these varied practices may be personal growth, rite of passage, or spiritual or sexual curiosity.
Roland Loomis, also known as Fakir Musafar, is considered the father of the modern primitive movement. The 1989 RE/Search book Modern Primitives is largely responsible for the promotion of the concept of modern primitivism. It involves some sort of strange juxtaposition of high technology and "low" tribalism, animism, and body modification - a kind of 'Technoshamanism,' if you will, at once possession trance and kinetic dance.

What does make the modern primitive movement unusual is its pursuit of sensation. Borrowing from the S & M sexual subculture, the modern primitives suggest that one of the effects of modernization and industrialization has been psychic numbing. People no longer know either authentic pleasure or pain, and have forgotten the curious neurochemical ways in which they are interwoven. Piercing is more than just inscription; piercing of the genitals or other sensitive areas of the body means pain, especially during sexual intercourse... but it is a pain that becomes part of the ecstasy for ModPrims... there is this idea of a knowing through pain which modernity has forgotten.

When Mustafar or Stelarc hang themselves from hooks, or pierce themselves with sharp painful implements, they are only duplicating a practice found all over the world. It is a key ritual for many "primitive" and other societies for the person to go into trance and to demonstrate their "absorbtion" by the divine through the negation of pain and injury. The ModPrims claim that their performances are a pursuit of transcendence, proving the ability of the mind to go beyond the taxings and limitations of the body. Stelarc calls himself a "Cyberhuman," pointing to his belief that the future of human evolution toward a greater interconnection of men and machines will require humankind's mastery over (rather than suppression of) passion, suffering, and pain.

Futher, within the ModPrim movement, there is this sort of obsession over technological invasion of the body, through prosthetics, genetic modification, implants, and so on. This bodily invasion is at once feared (as a colonization by capital) and desired (by permitting people to directly neurally link into the "consensual hallucination" of Gibson's Virtual Reality.) The body is seen as information (DNA provides the 'code') and its invasion as either 'scrambling' (through viruses, cancer, etc.) or 'purification' (by removing 'noise' or 'distortion.') The technological modification of the body is seen as a reworking of the shamanic 'deconstruction' of a past era, where the shaman is torn apart by the gods of his tribe, and then his bones and flesh are replaced with quartz or fire or something else...

ModPrims also embrace the rave as a sign of the uniting of past and future. The rave is at once 'primitive,' with its gathering of 'tribes' of young people for the experience of Levy-Bruhl 'participation mystique' through kinetics and MDMA (Ecstasy), and 'futuristic' (or modern) with its use of digitally sampled and remixed music, laser and light effects, and multimedia expositions. Ravers at once dress in way that signifies past and future - piercing their ears with computer chips, wearing 70s (or earlier) clothes with futuristic hologram jewelry, combining the fashion of folk and punk. They consider themselves the heirs of the 60s counterculture, and also its antithesis, since they reject its anti-technology, pro-natural, 'peace and harmony,' and idealist emphases for a more pragmatist, aggressive, and techno-positive viewpoint... to the raver, whether a drug is synthetic or organic is besides the point.

Besides raves and piercing, ModPrims are perhaps best known for their attempts at juxtaposing magick and science. Publications like Virus 23 juxtapose Crowleyan occultism with chaos theory, Neo-Paganism & Wicca with memetics and information theory,etc.

From article: "Modern Primitives": The Accelerating Collision of Past and Future in the Postmodern Era

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