What does the merge of bodies and technology mean for the human? For cyborg Kai Landre, cybernetic extensions become body parts and not technology. Kai began his transition to a cyborg in 2019 by creating his Cosmic Sense; a cyborg sense that perceives Cosmic Rays. The Cosmic Sense captures subatomic particles created by the fall of Cosmic Rays in the atmosphere of the planet. Each captured particle is translated into sound (identifying as a musical note), which in turn allows Kai to compose live music. Landre’s Cosmic Sense taps into the galactic sound of the cosmos.
This intimate technology brings the omnipotence of space to be experienced within, making himself the medium. Landre goes beyond the physical limitations of the human by leaving behind the conditions to which the human is tied. A heightened sense that reclaims the body from the limitation of ‘the human’ by perceiving the world instead of receiving. A creative process that culminates in music and physics, as well as in trans-species activism.
Kai is a member of the Cyborg Foundation in Barcelona, the platform founded by Neil Harbisson, focused on research, development and promotion of projects related to the creation of new senses and perceptions, applying technology to the human body. We met with Kai to discuss augmenting and expanding our capabilities, sensing the Cosmic realm and what it means to be a cyborg.
How do you define yourself? Human? Cyborg? Something in between?
I define myself as a Cyborg. Not only because of the Cybernetic sense I created, also because after researching and introducing myself to the world of Cyborgism I got to understand that identity is so attached to the way we perceive the world.
I consider a Cyborg someone who’s not inside any standards that exist in human society.
So; for example, we can say that a Cyborg will never be binary, will not exist inside the limits society places identity in-between, and will exist as an individual that will have a unique way of perceiving what surrounds them.
I believe in that idea. As queer identities in the present, in the future, Cyborg will be a term to define self design and freedom in the individual identity.
Can you tell us about your ongoing transition from human to Cyborg?
Right now I feel like I’m in the moment where I’m starting to realise how much Cyborgism changed my whole life.
The moment you start perceiving ‘’more’’ than the usual, you get to discover by yourself the reality that exists upon the cultural constructs we have learned through our life that are ‘’existence’’. This realization changed the way I perceive reality, not talking about sense perception, but in a mind-perceptive way.
The Human to Cyborg transition not only depends on whether you implant or not a technological device in your body, it has more to do with changing the way you interact with the purest side of reality.
Your Cosmic Sense allows you to hear the sounds of cosmic rays. Where does this interest come from?
I’ve personally been so curious about outer space exploration since I was a child; I remember the day my older brother gave me a book about the solar system. I remember going through the pages of that book and being completely amazed by the fact that planet earth was not a limited realm.
I remember thinking that one day, I’d get in a rocket and would go out of our planet to experience the glorious universe myself instead of just seeing it in books.
The day I met the Cyborg Foundation creators, Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas, they asked me what my sense would be; and I had it crystal clear: A sense to perceive space from earth.
How does having this sense inform your creative practice?
Having an extra sense, apart from giving me a different perspective of the world that surrounds me, also gives mes the opportunity to create music with data that comes from the cosmos (that’s why I call my sense ‘’The Cosmic Sense’’) so, for me it feels as if I was translating the Universe’s voice into a tangible result that lets human beings hear it’s voice.
What does this sound like?
The sound of the Universe is amazing, it is dissonant as it doesn’t follow what here on earth we consider as ‘’melodic’’, that rule does not exist in the arbitrary cosmos, it is dissonant but just knowing the source makes it completely glorious.
How does it make you feel?
It makes me feel connected to all the creation whenever I hear a cosmic ray melody. I feel part of the bigger picture of the cosmos. Our senses only let us perceive what’s nearest to us, it makes sense as we use them to explore our surroundings, but, when you add a sense that lets you perceive what’s outside of the planet... That is a real game changer, cause you’re now sensing the whole Cosmic realm.
What does the Cosmic Sense reveal about our lived reality?
It reveals, (at least that’s what it revealed to me), that we live in a constructed social fantasy. Everything we know, we believe, even what we think is real, it’s not. We live in a world constructed by us, for us. But the universe itself, when you take away all these constructs, is a pure place.
There’s no rules, no truth, no moral attached to the pure reality of the physical world. But as humans, we live inside of that intelectual cage we’ve created and act as if that was everything that’s real, it all looks like a big theatre.
There is a common fear of 'Cyborgization' - how do you address these misconceptions?
I don’t. I think it’s human to fear. We fear to protect ourselves from what’s unknown. And that, somehow, is what let our race evolve since the prehistoric era until now. But somehow I question: aren’t we intelligent enough to be able to evolve not just for pure survival? Cyborgism is obviously such a new thing at this moment. It’s new and people fear it, cause they fear leaving the human nature of their identities. We come from the catholic moral ideals and even now that most of the individuals are agnostic, it’s still a big weight we carry on our backs.
How can having a Cosmic Sense (or any ‘techno sense’) alter the definition of what it means to be human?
Easy, just by modifying the perception of your surroundings, and by doing so, altering the capabilities of an ‘’organism’’, you’re evolving it into a new species.
Not only physically but also because as I said before, the general idea of the social constructs don’t affect you anymore. Because those are made for humans, and now you’re a Cyborg, you’re exempt from all rules and able to create yourself and design yourself as you want to. It makes you free.
How does your Cyborg Manifesto add to this?
In my Cyborg Manifesto (2020) I wanted to explain this whole situation to the audience that didn’t understand the ideology changes that happen from the inside of a Cyborg Individual once they start experimenting with enhanced perception.
And in it, I basically talk about the same topics I’m addressing in this interview. I talk about how 5 sense perception enslaves you in the system that’s been created to stimulate you. And how the addition of new senses lets you escape that reality to get to know the real purity of the Universe, which we are part of.
How do you relate to Donna Harraway’s work?
That’s a question a lot of people ask me. I think Donna Haraway meant a different thing when she was talking about Cyborgs. I get her idea cause as I said being a Cyborg is an identity, it lets you get out of the human norm and it gives you a space where you can develop yourself without the restrictions human nature (socially speaking) involves. So I’d say I relate to her idea of the Cyborg identity as a free realm where you are able to decide by yourself what defines you.
How can next senses address the imbalances between nature and technology?
Nature and technology both are part of the same universe, it’s not imbalanced, it’s perfectly balanced. We just need to understand that as they belong to the same realm they’re part one of the other.
Are you hopeful towards the future?
I’m neutral. I don’t have much expectations for any future event as I think it depends fully on ourselves. We will define what will happen, and we’ll be responsible for what the outcome of humanity will be. This said, I think we’re in such a good moment of humanity. I hope in the future people will start to see and believe that we’re the creators of our own realm.