Posthumanism in the anime machine

The Posthuman approach understands that the so-called human is much more a construct than a given. The humanist philosophy is well constructed in the images and representations about the human in the history of art. The crisis that Hans Sedlmayr identifies in the representation of man through art as a loss of the center and language reminds the thought in Derrida about our metaphysical construction of language: “A system in which the central signified, the original or transcendental signified, is never absolutely present outside a system of differences. The absence of the transcendental signified extends the domain and the play of signification infinitely” (2001, p. 354). The process of realizing the absence and the play of substitution at the heart of our philosophy and language produces an interesting thought about how we can perceive this process in the image: “War is declared, not only on man and nature, but on light, on the intellect and on composition” (Sedlmayr, 1957, p.159).

We realize the loss of the center, but it was never there. We see man disappearing from the representations of art, but it was never there. To deconstruct our sense of historicity and ideology is to look at the images and see the aspects that made them. I think that critically engage a posthuman aesthetic approach is about turning our view to the ethics and aesthetics of our history of science and humanities. Here I think about this passage in the thought of Félix Guattari: “Just as scientific machines constantly modify our cosmic frontiers, so do the machines of desire and aesthetic creation” (1955, p.54).

My research is about the posthumanism in the anime machine and to do that is to rethink a lot of things, but first things firsts. I like in this brief space to pose a question: What kind of posthumanisn can emerge in the interplay of layers in a Japanese animation? I like to note that anime is a defying art: the difference between high or low art does not have room in this multilayered matter. As Thomas Lamarre puts it nicely:I wish to indicate that animation at once works with technology and thinks about technology—and the two processes are inseparable” (2009, When we look at animation, these two processes are working through different screens and they look at us. Anime has a potential to unfold the (post) human in a manner that articulates form and content as Stevie Suan identifies:“I will suggest that Anime—as a form with particular conventions—exhibits a similar structure of equally related, inseparable parts that weave together certain patterns through the juxtaposition of various images (in this case, literally), producing a larger meaning and depiction of the human (and post-human) condition” (2013, p.41).

シリアルエクスペリメンツレイン (Serial Experiments Lain, 1998, Yoshitoshi Abe)
シリアルエクスペリメンツレイン (Serial Experiments Lain, 1998, Yoshitoshi Abe)

This larger meaning is not outside the plane of the image and so is the ideology and thoughts that are on it. To unfold this process is a manner of critically engage with the posthuman subject.  With a very brief introduction we can say that there are some exciting things happening that need our attention.



DERRIDA, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Trad. Alan Bass. London/New York: Routledge, 2011.

GUATTARI, Félix. Chaosmosis: an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.

LAMARRE, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

SUAN, Stevie. The Anime Paradox: Patterns and Practices through the lens of Traditional Japanese Theather. Leiden/Boston: Global Oriental, 2013.

SEDLMAYER, Hans. Art in Crisis the lost center. USA/UK: New Brunswick, 1957.

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