Aquatint copper print making cymatics with sounds of the origins of copper and dust.

Anthropocentric post-humanism? and the Atom Spirit

I wanted to post a question in response to the lecture, but did not have such an option. Therefor I am now turning my question into a sort-of argument about the definition of post-humanism.

According to Wikipedia’s definition of philosophical post-humanism, it states:

Posthumanism differs from classical humanism by relegating humanity back to one of many natural species, thereby rejecting any claims founded on anthropocentric dominance.[18] According to this claim, humans have no inherent rights to destroy nature or set themselves above it in ethical considerations a priori. Human knowledge is also reduced to a less controlling position, previously seen as the defining aspect of the world. The limitations and fallibility of human intelligence are confessed, even though it does not imply abandoning the rational tradition of humanism.

I have always understood post-humanism, in its simplest form, to be the task of removing the human from the center of our world view. i.e. an anti-anthropocentric project. I found lesson one extremely anthropocentric. I also find the notion of the anthropocene extremely anthropocentric. (A very appropriate thesis, but not a post-humanist thesis. I also agree with Donna Haraway when she insists that “The Anthropocene” should be named capitalocene, since it is the product of capitalism and not  the entire human era on earth).

For this assignment – and as an argument that post-humanism should first and foremost be an anti-anthropocentric project – I will introduce you to my latest art project:

The Russian Cosmists was a philosophical and cultural movement in the early 20th century, combining nature philosophy and religion with futurism. Their author Nikolai F. Fedorov believed that the universe works towards constant disintegration and man’s most important task is reintegration, to the point of solving “the problem of death”. In that endeavor he coined the term “ancestral dust” which is the notion that each dust particle was once a part of something organic and alive. The Common Task was to restore this dust to its once living origin, so that everybody who ever lived was revived and immortalized. Fedorov imagined research teams would travel to the moon and beyond to distant destinations in the universe in order to restore all our ancestors from space dust. One of his students, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, is nowadays credited for being the pioneer of theoretical space travel. He further extended Fedorov’s theory of dust. He was not only a materialist but panpsychist and therefor recognized the sensitivity in the entire universe, by which he named particles “Atom-Dukh” dust spirit or atom spirit.

Aquatint is an intaglio printing technique in which copper plates are coated with dust. The artist then treats the dust-coated surface to create the image and finally, the copper plate is immersed in acid, after which one has a plate with an image ready for gravure printing. Copper is a metal and a chemical element that is produced in massive stars and found in earth’s crust. Dust has many origins, but 60 tons of cosmic dust fall to earth every day.

I have made a series of experiments with dust coating on copper plates by using cymatics. Cymatics is when sounds are played onto a (copper)plate, causing the plate to vibrate to the sound, so that when dust or powder is added, different patterns take shape to different tone frequencies (more or less complex and always symmetrical patterns). I have used a handful of sounds from the origins of copper and dust (star explosion, dust hitting a spaceship, the big bang and tectonic plates moving). In the meeting between copper and dust, cymatic patterns emerged to the sounds of copper and dusts’ origin and have resulted in five prints with each their unique pattern.

Returning to the Russian cosmists,, this project investigates the aquatint copper printing technique with the question: Can the materials remember their ancestral origin?
One can see it as an attempt to make the materials come alive again, telling its story in pictograms.

I want to argue, that my project Atom-Dukh is post-human in the sense that it draws on Tsiolkovksy’s notion of the Atom-Dukh / Atom-Spirit; that the atom is the center of the universe and humans are just a vessel for atoms to evolutionize through. The human task is merely to direct the evolution of the atom in the direction of further complexity (negentropy?) and this can be done by producing art objects.

I am attaching the press release and I also want to invite you all to come for the opening of my show on Friday October 7th from 17-20 at Danske Grafikeres Hus where you can experience the work.

Marina Simakova wrote an article about Tsiokovsky’s notion of the Atom-Dukh for the exhibtion. There will copies available at the opening.



Young, George M. (2012): the Russian Comsists, Oxford University Press

Young, George M. (?): Nikolai Fedorov, Nordland Publishing Company

Selected Works of Konstantin E. Tsiokovsky, (2004) University Press of the Pacific Honululu, Hawaii

Donna Haraway (2014) Lecture: capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the trouble

Marina Simakova (2016) No Man’s Space: On Russian Cosmism

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5 Comments on "Anthropocentric post-humanism? and the Atom Spirit"

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Anna Rowntree
Hi, thanks for your post- you voiced something I too thought was a little ambiguous in the lecture- namely the difference between posthumanism and transhumanism. posthumanism is for me a project (or movement?) concerned with de-centering the human (like you say anti-anthropocentric). the transhuman does almost the opposite in my eyes. The human body is complicated, no longer divine or unalterable (made in gods image) but the human is still very much the hero and focus of the project. to become super human is not, to my mind, about the delicate shifting of subjectivity to try and imagine and feel… Read more »
Eva Krarup
Eva Krarup

Hi, I think you’ve started a really interesting discussion here, maybe some of the other members have some reflections on how posthumanism and transhumanism differ regarding the position of the human too?

Eva Krarup
Eva Krarup

Also, Anna, it’s interesting that you mention Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter in relation to Honey’s art project, I came to think of that one too along with Karen Barad’s new materialist approach to the posthuman (in Meeting the Universe Halfway for instance), where she, not unlike Bennett, also calls for a renewed attention on the agency of all matter. Maybe that would be something to dive further into for you Honey (and anyone else interested in the new materialist approach to the posthuman)?

Jacob Wamberg
Jacob Wamberg

Thanks for your provocative comment. As lecturer I’m of course curious to know in what sense you found my presentation “extremely anthropocentric”? I agree with Anna’s distinction between posthumanism and transhumanism and am sorry if I was not sufficiently clear about it in the lecture.