The Passion of the Space Jockey: Alienated Sentience and Endosymbiosis in the World of H. R. Giger

In: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies
Eric WargoIndependent Researcher

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The “biomechanoids” of the Swiss painter H. R. Giger (1940–2014) depict the sadomasochistic bondage of humans and machines. Although Giger’s art has commonly been interpreted in psychoanalytic terms as representing some past trauma connected with origins and birth, I argue that it also encodes a distinctly gnostic warning about the trajectory of consciousness in relation to technology, a “fall of spirit into matter” that may lie ahead of our species rather than behind. With the help of the endosymbiosis theory of biologist Lynn Margulis, I decode the dark warning transmission in Giger’s work, especially the iconic “Space Jockey” Giger designed for Ridley Scott’s 1979 blockbuster Alien—a fossilized star pilot fused to its ship. As a vision of the more disturbing possibilities of cyborgs or human-machine symbionts, the Space Jockey contrasts sharply with optimistic dreams of Singularities and “spiritual machines.” It suggests a posthuman future in which distinctly nonspiritual machines find it useful to coopt or exploit spirit (human or otherwise) for their own ends.

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