#eye #eye


Our tentacles crossed amongst the molecular webbing of the Tasman Sea. The tidal extremities of the moon had brought us together, its liquid netting dragging us closer. I was unsure where you had come from, bright blue and bulbous. I thought that your spectacularity presupposed you for cohabitation with the corals far up north, yet your tentacles had been stretched down to the south-eastern corner of the continent.

Scyphozoa sp.[1] or scyph and I refracted together that day; their archive becoming mine, and perhaps mine becoming theirs. Julietta Singh explains that ‘the body archive’ is inherently unstable, relying upon the delicate distinctions between the mind/body that differentiate humanity from animality.  Nevertheless, Singh documents her own body archive, giving into her desires to archive the world through physiological response. She writes ‘It is a way of knowing the body-self as a becoming and unbecoming thing, of scrambling time and matter, of turning toward rather than against oneself.”[2] This unstable medium begins and ends infinitely (or perhaps not at all). It is not a single materiality but a collection of beings, within, around and on top of one another, intra-acting[3] in perpetuity. These bodies extend out from themselves, sliding their tentacles[4] over one-another, imbuing each interaction with a discretion of influence.

Eva Hayward describes the post-encounter as a refraction.[5] The aftermath of a sensuous encounter that leaves the subject temporarily inanimate, a bodily response to a full body entanglement that overwhelms sentience. Hayward explains ‘Refraction is corporeal but also carnal.’[6] My refraction with scyph engendered my relationality with them despite my incapacity to identity them within their genus. Hayward writes: ‘the trouble with identification is that it is a misalignment of empathy with the possibility of familiarity.’[7] My inability to identify scyph has forced a familiarity, a knowing beyond zeitgeist. This familiarity has tempted me into a kinship with scyph that has expanded my conception of queer existence.

the body as mind

‘Bodies and minds: I confess, I have already lost the difference between them.’[8] 

                                                                                                                                    Julietta Singh

Scyphozoa sp. is perceptively boundless. Jellyfish do not have a brain or comparable central nervous system, but rather perceive and act through two netted nerve systems; the ‘large net nerve’ controls the pulsation for swimming and the smaller ‘diffuse nerve net’ controls nonswimming behaviour, including feeding and flight responses.[9]Their body entraps their mind, and their mind entraps their body - neither is distinguishable from the other. My psychologist, Ilana, would often prompt me to consider the bodily sensations that accompany my reflections; the affect rather than the effect.  eg when I met scyph my body felt tight.

scyph, on the other hand, did not look tight. Rather, they appeared placid, only animated by friction with the shifting force of the water. I anticipated scyph’s constriction and disappearance, waiting for an intentionality that is visible. It is queried whether this constriction is an act of consciousness or only muscular, whether it comes from the mind or body. A finding of consciousness would necessitate a restructuring of human/more-thanhuman existence. Therefore, western scholarship presupposes conservatism in the area through Morgan’s Canon, ‘one should never invoke high-order explanations for behaviour if they might be explained by simpler ones.’[10] scyph’s constriction is requested and delivered by the large net nerves that sits between their bell and tentacles. Human constriction is controlled by the central nervous system, the brain and spine, and delivered by muscle. My bodily constriction feels rarely within my control.

I piss without intending to, I vomit without intending to, I shit without intending to. I orgasm without intending to.

When refracting post-(piss, vomit, shit, orgasm)accident, I wonder if less distance between my mind and body would’ve had more attractive outcomes. The human brain is so fragile it requires constant bodily enclosure. Is this bodily mass best suited to responding to the intensity of perpetual tentacular encounter, encounters that invoke a bodily response uncontrollable by the conscious being? Or perhaps my extremities hold a consciousness that is untranslatable to my inner self; my eyelashes and toenails protecting me from existence’s ‘more-ness of sensation.’11 If I could float with scyph amongst the tides of the Tasman, my body would let my mind in on this more-ness.

the body as intertemporal

‘Should I be so bold then as to claim that our mutual desire to eat our mothers is intergenerational?’[11] 

                                                                                                                              Julietta Singh

The ‘immortal jellyfish’ or Turritopsis dohrnii has the capacity to reverse their development where there is a bodily threat and then regenerate into a colony of polyp, making themselves theoretically immortal.[12]This process is known as transdifferentiation.  

Jellies have the sensory and cognitive capacity to receive visual cues through light and dark and respond to varying stimuli differently. This capacity includes the ability to remember and learn, responding to knowledge acquired in their past. Do these knowledges end with transdifferentiation or are they archived by the process? Does turri continue into their regenerated self or are these regenerations more like offspring, containing parts of mumturri but with lives extending beyond the parental existence? If these archives are lost, when do they disappear? Does turri shed their archive as they fold unto themselves preparing for re-polyp-isation, falling through the sand alongside their damaged cells?  If these archives survive degeneration, how much is implanted in each sprouting polyp? Do they carry and redistribute these archives as they affix themselves to passing boats? I wonder about what these regenturri’s are like, do they hold the conservative views of a bygone era? Will they be able to keep up with the ever-changing chemical makeup of the oceans when they contain such vast temporal existences? Russian philosopher Nikolai Fedorov believed that death is not natural but a ‘flaw in our design’ with the capacity to be solved by technological and scientific advancements granting immortality for living humans and regeneration for humans passed.14 Fedorov believed that Utopia is in the future, contingent on the capacity for regeneration to fully recuperate the totality of past lives; ‘the pain, disappointment and suffering as much as joy, hope and love.’[13] Turri transnavigates amongst the past, future and present, holding these totalities within their body, and their body’s body, and their body’s body’s body.

I always felt much older than my age, my body felt heavy with fragments of a totality in formation, a temporal drag.[14] Temporal drag is the ‘insistently corporeal kinship with the departed;’[15] the pull of the queer past on a queers present. My body knew before I did. It kept it from me for years. Until it let me know, drip-feeding gay ruminations to a twelveyear-old. I attempted to make sense of these disparate thoughts, dreams and awkwardnesses that were only gaining regularity. I sat on the bus comparing my attraction to different genders yearning for certainty. It came to fruition as I got pulled across the street to the front of a church (though I am not religious), confessing my queerness to God (though I do not believe in God), and joining a procession of queers revelling in the biblical

without belief. I then degenerated. Moving forwards into childhood as I attempted a bodily reformation. A regeneration.

scyph and me

‘We are all jellyfish.’[16]

                                                                                                Felix Kubin

I’m not sure if scyph is immortal. I hope they are. Perhaps we could degenerate together next. We could lie on the base of the ocean floor and close our eyes, feeling our beings undevelop into ourselves, thick with overlap as the folds draw our surfaces inwards. Our duplicates could regeneratenearby. I wonder if they would share their archives with each other, comparing inevitable deficiencies in the fleshy transference.

Scyph and I never touched. Our differences didn’t congeal on our surfaces. I stepped out of the way before a corporeal meeting could occur. 

Regardless, I was refracted. 

‘We are not queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.’[17]

                                                                                                                              José Esteban Muñoz

[1] Scyphozoa is the identification class referred to as the ‘true jellyfish’ and includes all jellyfish besides those classified under Cubozoa (box jellyfish). ‘sp.’ is an abbreviation used where the specific species is unknown. Here, ‘Scyphozoa sp.’ refers to the jellyfish I encountered whilst swimming off the coast of Wilsons Promontory National Park on Boonwurrung, Bunurong and Gunaikurnai country.

[2]J Singh, ‘The Body Archive’ in No Archive Will Restore You, Punctum Books, 2018, pp. 29–56 (p. 29), <http://www.jstor.org/stable/jj.2353890.5> [accessed 1 October 2023].

[3]K Barad, ‘Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter’, in Signs: Journal of women in culture and society, vol. 28, 2003, 801–831 (p. 815) quoted in; E Hayward, ‘OctoEyes’, in Frontiers in Communication, vol. 3, 2019, 50 (p. 29).

[4]See Donna Haraway’s ‘tentacular thinking’ which explains the lines of inter-connectedness through our spindly extremities. Where ‘everything is connected to something, which is connected to something else’ rather than usual ecological catch-all that ‘everything is connected to everything.’ See Haraway, DJ Haraway, ‘Tentacular thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene and Chtulucene’ inStaying with the Trouble : Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham, Durham : Duke University Press, 2016.

[5]E Hayward, ‘Sensational jellyfish: Aquarium affects and the matter of immersion’, in differences, vol. 23, 2012, 161–196 (p. 175).

[6]Hayward, 161–196 (p. 175).

[7]Hayward, 161–196 (p. 177).

[8]Singh, pp. 29–56 (p. 31).

[9]RR Helm, ‘Evolution and development of scyphozoan jellyfish’, in Biological Reviews, vol. 93, 2018, 1228– 1250 (pp. 1233–1234). 

[10]C Brown, ‘Fish intelligence, sentience and ethics’, in Anim Cogn, vol. 18, 2015, 1–17 (p. 5). 11 Hayward, 161–196 (p. 175).

[11]Singh, pp. 29–56 (p. 35).

[12]AA Lisenkova et al., ‘Complete mitochondrial genome and evolutionary analysis of Turritopsis dohrnii, the “immortal” jellyfish with a reversible life-cycle’, in Mol Phylogenet Evol, vol. 107, 2017, 232–238. 14 A Vidokle & H Steyerl, ‘Cosmic Catwalk and the Production of Time’, in e-flux Journal, 2017.

[13]Vidokle and Steyerl, p. 4.

[14] E Freeman, ‘Time Binds, or Ethnohistoriography’ in Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories, Durham [NC], Durham NC : Duke University Press, 2010, pp. 96–135.

[15]Freeman, pp. 96–135 (p. 116).

[16]F Kubin, Wir Alle Sind Qualle, Matki Wandalki, , 2004, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4T2uzEogNg> as referenced in V Meis, ‘“The jellyfish must have precedence!”: The Diaphanous Animal as an Optical Medium’ in Texts, Animals, Environments: Zoopoetics and Ecopoetics, Rombach Druck-und Verlagshaus, 2019, , p. 198.

[17]JE Muñoz, ‘Intoruction: Feeling Utopia’ in Cruising Utopia : The Then and There of Queer Futurity, New York, New York : NYU Press, 2009, pp. 1–18 (p. 1).