'Bodies are packages made to be opened': Shu Lea Cheang's 'I.K.U.' (2000)


The following is an excerpt from The I.K.U. Experience, The Shu-Lea Cheang Phenomenon, an essay in New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut (2013) by B. Ruby Rich.

Just step right up, ladies and gentlemen, the carnival is about to begin. Come inside, surf the net, play the video game, dive into the screen, cruise the future, come get fucked, just come, come, come. Bodies are packages made to be opened, minds are penetrable, sensations communicable, orgasms collectable.

I.K.U. invents a future cybersexual universe, where trained replicants roam the empty spaces of unseen metropolises, hunting willing prey for orgasmic sexual marathons conducted in the service of science. The irresistible replicants are equipped with unicorn-like arms which – presto -- turn into dildo machines specifically calibrated to collect and transmit the specifications of orgasms into the centralized corporatized databases of the future. Meanwhile, the species of the future are wildly indeterminate, gender-blurred or homo-sex, oversexed or just, well, willing. Shorn of emotion, sex isn't just work. Data has its pleasures, too.

And the audience? Like it or not, you're implicated in it all, swept up by the throbbing techno soundtrack, plunged directly into the action by the animation tunnels that materialize at the onset of arousal.