Treister provides a clue to these implications in suggesting that the findings from the Hexen research programme are to be collated, and developed into a range of new futuristic technologies: “The results of HEXEN 2039 are utilised between 2040 and 2045 by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the development and delivery of a range of non lethal weapons for remote alteration of belief patterns in the subject.”1 Through this emphasis on technological innovation, alongside associations of secretive militaristic aims, Hexen can be discussed in response to current rhetoric regarding optical technological advance.
Within contemporary discourses Jonathan Crary and Paul Virilio assert that optical devices cannot simply be viewed as optical devices.2 Crary suggests that discussions surrounding devices such as the camera obscura, the magnifying lens, and the microscope are not just a question of the material object under discussion – a history of technology – but are important because of the way in which such technologies are “embedded in a much larger assemblage of events and powers”.3 Discourses surrounding these new technologies are necessarily complex, as they are shaped by politics, balanced at a point of “intersection where philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic discourse overlap with mechanical techniques, institutional requirements, and socio-economic forces”. 4 Virilio, extends on this view by suggesting that these devices and their more contemporary successors, photography, film and surveillance technology are deeply intertwined with notions of state power and control. 5
In its widest context Hexen 2039 can be seen as engaging with this theoretical framework. Treister achieves this engagement through a process that blends together elements from wide-ranging sources, both contemporary and historical, in which optical technologies and ocular discourses are present. Firstly, through the introduction of Renaissance scientist, mathematician and occultist Dr John Dee's6 scrying crystal, Treister connects with historical perspectives that saw optical technologies as being imbued with mysterious and invisible occult forces.7 Secondly the use of “faked” photographic evidence, and devices that make it appear that information is being suppressed, Treister engages with notions “truth” and “illusion” - an area of discussion which is particularly applied to photography through which our ability to distinguish between reality and illusion is brought into question.8
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly through the inclusion of an imaginary futuristic mind-control device and references to the MGM Hollywood film production company Treister connects directly to contemporary discourses which supplant notions of invisible occult forces with the mysterious invisible force of state surveillance. Surveillance related themes can be seen as the overarching focus of the Hexen research programme in which the aim is to amass occult/technological data in order to create “non lethal weapons for remote alteration of belief patterns in the subject.”9 This futuristic mind-control device can be compared to the perceived invasive nature of current optical technologies, in which ideas of thought-alteration are prevalent.