+ Welcome to the ETLE Universe +
The A.O. Movement Collective's ETLE Universe is a queer/feminist cyborg time travel epic…thing…uniting over 60 collaborating artists in the creation of a wholly original cannon of intra-media science fictional* work. Initiated in 2012 by Sarah A.O. Rosner via the A.O. Movement Collective, the project spanned three years of work, culminating in the Fall of 2015 with a three-week festival. The project is a maximalist investigation into collective authorship, queer narrative structures, feminist absence and embodiment, and sustainable artmaking. Moreover, it is a work of prophetic science fiction--an earnest uncovering of our impending (post)human future in an attempt to understand what's to come--eternally unfolding and reiterating itself in an infinite temporal loop.
This network of prophetic science fiction(s) manifests in an entire universe of intersecting characters and narratives spanning eons, all revolving around a time-traveling rebel cyborg known as ETLE. An infinitesimally small yet crucial moment within the Universe's timeline, the creative process of the AOMC's ETLE Universe produced ten distinct works over three years, each based in a different media: an evening-length performance, a fashion show, a graphic novel, pornography, a photography installation, a collection of 3D-printed jewelry, fiction**, academic essays**, an immersive multiplayer gaming experience, and a concept soundtrack. In doing so, the ETLE Universe attempted to create a dynamic (net)work of art that was culturally impactful, maximalist, and antiephemeral, while simultaneously uncovering the mysteries of the ETLE Universe and the future of the human race.
By bringing these works into being, the AOMC made possible the unfolding of a sequence of events, which they believe will lead to the onset of the Absence, the proliferation of the rebel THIC, and the rise of ETLE.
What follows is a detailed archiving of the AOMC's three years of work on the ETLE Universe, the artifacts that remain, and the future histories that they uncovered.
** Though there was intent to create a collection of fiction and a collection of essays as two of the works of the ETLE Universe, these works never materialized due to a number of factors. Some of the writing collaborators contributed to other works of the ETLE Universe, and their content can be found in the ETLE_Immersive (Joel Nichols, Damien Luxe) and ETLE ILLUS (Joel Nichols.)
+ ETLE Universe Narrative Timeline
Below is the narrative timeline of the ETLE Universe's main events, as released to the public during the ETLE Universe's online launch at http://ETLE.theAOMC.org in the project's first year. While being anchors of the Universe's narrative, these events do not constitute the full narrative of the ETLE Universe--rather, they act as the chronological architecture around which anachronistic arcs and looping temporal sequences play out.
The Beginning (Current Present)
In 2013, a performance group called the A.O. Movement Collective begins work on a new project. It starts innocently enough: it’s a queer feminist science-fiction narrative following a rebel cyborg named ETLE on her adventures through time. But as the work progresses, the AOMC becomes convinced that the project isn’t fiction, but in fact a prophetic vision of an impending future. Spiraling deeper and deeper into their implausible beliefs, the AOMC begins to believe that the rebels in their story are not only real, but have somehow planted the origins of the ETLE project in their minds as a means to win their future revolution. The AOMC launches into action, bringing on 30+ multidisciplinary artists they push the project to epic outer limits, involving fashion, music, pornography, literature, academia, visual art, and more—any strategy possible to escape the ephemeral limits of performance—and aid these rebels in their Absence.G/lit.ch_R.evolution.
As a zealous network of believers and fans develops around the AOMC’s work, artists and audience alike report increasing contact from these supposedly fictional characters. Some are dismissive of the AOMC’s beliefs and play along, still believing the project to be a hoax, but many become truly obsessed with aiding these rebels in their struggle for revolution. As the stakes rise higher and higher, the community galvanizes around a shared goal: artifacts must be left so future time travelers can make sense of this Intel that the AOMC and their supporters are creating and yet can barely comprehend. Individuals, audience, and press join in the effort, historicizing the project across a range of media.
As the project comes to a close artists and audience alike wonder if they’ve been able to alter the future in any meaningful way. No longer visited by ETLE and feeling slightly sheepish, the AOMC vows to shake itself of this fantasy and return to making dance.
Forward to the not so distant future, and half the world’s population has started falling out of time. Drifting through visions of alternate realities, women all over the world have begun to slump into dissociative states, leaving men scrambling to deal with their left-behind bodies until they return—sometimes after a few minutes, sometimes weeks later. But it’s not just women—in fact, it seems to be more pointedly not men. Why is this sudden epidemic occurring? More importantly, how can it be cured?
Politicians, scientists, economists, and doctors alike all rush to offer explanations and potential fixes to this mass hysteria, despite the fact that the male majorities are not able to experience the condition themselves. Women, shaken to the core by this experience of the Absence—at once traumatic, overwhelming, confusing, and somehow innately right—are hesitant to put the experience into words. But when they do, they describe experiencing altered versions of their own lives, visions of what could have been or might be in their past, present, and future. Some start to offer the idea that these other universes and existences could be real, but the idea is met with reluctance at best—if they’re “real” why can’t men experience them?
Beginning to understand the economic impact of the epidemic, governments around the world insist that our current present is the one and only true reality, funneling millions of dollars into curing this “epidemic.” Simultaneously, more and more women begin to express their belief that this drifting is no epidemic at all, but an inherently female way of experiencing a multiplous and ever-shifting reality. The Absence is present, and human life has become irrevocably altered.
As the chaos around the onset of the Absence settles, a sober new realization emerges: women who are pregnant during their absence miscarry their child. Panic around the Absence reaches new heights as the global birth rate grinds to a halt: could this be the end of the human race?
As governments reassure their populations that a solution will be found in time to prevent an event horizon for human extinction, culture shifts to incorporate this new way of life. The primary concern seems to be keeping women safe as their bodies can no longer be trusted or held accountable. Some groups suggest keeping them at home, tasked with simple but fulfilling jobs. Militant feminist terrorist groups address safety in a different way: they feign the absence and then execute anyone who tries to take advantage of them. Everyone has their own opinions for how to make their loved ones comfortable while experiencing the Absence, and techniques or rituals they use in their effort to call them back. Absence shrines become a form of pop art. More and more women, fed up with governments and scientists that seem to have more authority over the experience than those who actually experience it, begin to become militant. Relationships strain under the tension of this new dynamic. And the world waits.
FATH Co. Unveils the R.I.B
Though billions and billions of dollars have been funneled into finding a cure for years, there still doesn’t seem to be a solution. Then suddenly a rumor ignites all the media outlets: the FATH Company, a privatized branch of the United States government, has unveiled a potential solution: a bio-mechanical surgically implanted enhancement called a Reality Intensification Binder. Designed to keep women safe by tethering them to the current present, the RIB seems to be successful in nullifying the Absence once and for all—allowing women to produce the first new humans in ten years.
The world rejoices, relieved to once again have a future at any cost. However, the cost of the implant—exorbitantly expensive due to FATH’s privatized nature—falls on the women desperate to have it done. FATH joins with the government to offer a generous solution: everyone should be able to have a RIB. Those who can’t afford it on their own—the large majority of the global population—can simply enter a payment program—they’ll become Trans Human Indentured Cybernetics (as a formality) until the operation is paid off. All that’s required of them is to bear children for the Company while they’re indentured to help bring population levels back up.
The RIB soars in production and soon it’s common to have one. New legislation is introduced: wouldn’t it be safer for everyone if RIBs were mandatory? Women fracture into two groups: those desiring of motherhood who feel that it is their duty to repopulate the human race, and those who continue to advocate the Absence as a next stage of evolution. This fraction is increasingly seen as a nuisance—why make everything more difficult that it already is? Why not just go back to how everything used to be? Why not follow nature? But these activists advocate exactly that: the Absence as a new way of life, a new nature, a new existence specifically in key with a non-singular non-linear experience of reality. They demand funding and research to explore the Absence’s legitimacy, knowing that their time is running out.
The R.I.B. is Hacked / Birth of the Rebel THIC
Increasingly militant, these once-peaceful Absence activists begin to team up with the terrorists responsible for early acts of preventative violence to protect Absent women. Wary of their destructive potential, governments begin to declare these women a threat to national security. The rebels are desperate: searching for any way possible to continue their existence without donning the RIB. Two scientists offer a new approach: what if an individual could go through with the FATH Company’s procedure, but then hack the apparatus and alter it for their own use?
There’s only so far their research can go without human participants, so rebels begin to offer themselves to the cause. They’ll schedule an implant operation, only to be extracted from FATH’s compound by splinter cells of rebel activists, and brought to allies who attempt a post-op hack and manual restart of the new implant. This extraction is extremely dangerous, and the hack is bloody, desperate, and unhopeful for the early operations. But each failed hack brings slow but certain progress, and after many failed hacks, patient 112313 gasps back into consciousness after the operation, becoming the first member of a new race of trans human cybernetics.
These new rebel THIC are free from FATH control—able to use their hacked RIBs to not only quantify and understand the Absence, but to navigate it at will. They have effectively upgraded the female body to be able to function as time machines. Navigating by signposts unknowingly created at points throughout their own lives, the rebels embrace their chronomultiplous abilities. FATH extractions and guerilla hack jobs start popping up all over the world; the rebel THIC are born.
The Violent Female Revolution
As the rebel THIC’s underground army grows, FATH and government forces become skilled at raiding hack operations—declaring hacked THIC “broken executables” and forcing them into camps. The rebel THIC become internally divided and argumentative, their multiplicity of opinions complicated by the painful electric interference caused by any proximity of their hacked RIBs.
Some rebel THIC advocate staying under the radar and building their numbers, planning a revolution by absence when they are numerous enough to cause a blow by leaving the current present en mass. Others want to stay and fight, and advocate for a bloody, emotionally impactful revolution that will serve as a warning through the rest of time.
When it happens, it’s ahead of schedule. Consensus hasn’t been reached, plans haven’t been laid out, but something snaps. Women start killing, and they don’t stop. Fathers, brothers, sons, best friends, lovers, strangers—men get poisoned at home, pushed in front of the subway, pipe bombed, and shot. The VFR is bloody, horrific, terrifying. Many rebel THIC take their own lives, unable to deal with what they’ve done. After 29 days of unimaginable bloodshed and chaos, governments enact emergency legislature, FATH forces quell the rebellion, and all remaining present women are outfitted with mandatory RIBs. The few remaining rebel THIC scatter to the edges of the chronoverse, leaving their bodies behind as they migrate to new ones to lead secluded and chronomadic lives.
The Lost Years
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Reconstruction + Distant Reach
News spreads slowly but surely, and the glow of possibility seeps back across the chronoverse. There’s a rebel THIC, one of the new generation of these solitary chronomads, who can do something the others can’t—she can travel beyond her own timeline, and through the bloodlines of her family’s past and future. The possibility of redemption, a second chance, begins to reunite the rebel THIC. Could they go back and change the outcome of the VFR? Could they hack the RIB sooner? Could they even discover what caused the Absence? It seems that this new rebel THIC—a young cybernetic named ETLE—might hold the key.
The Rise of ETLE
FUTURE LOCKED. This future will be unlocked once 4 works of the constellation have been curated
FUTURE LOCKED. This future will be unlocked once 8 works of the constellation have been curated
FUTURE LOCKED. This future will be unlocked once the ETLE_immersive has been curated