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Symbiotic inter-dependence and agency in becoming Posthuman

 

I have not yet the resources to identify which are the criteria that defines the Posthuman, probably because would be criteria(s) and posthumanisms, remarking the plurals, but probably we find at least two shifts: from individualism to becoming, and a post-antropocentric shift. Precisely, this post-anthropocentric is the nexus of the artistic project “HYBRID FAMILY”, developed by Maja Smrekar.

The ‘HYBRID FAMILY’ project is the second one in a trilogy under the common title ‘K-9_topology’, where the artist investigates the co-evolution, co-habitation and possible scenarios of the cross-species hybridization of humans and dogs. In her three-month seclusion from the bustle of everyday life in the upper floors of the Freies Museum Berlin, Maja Smrekar bent her emotions, thoughts and body until she was able to use her own breast milk to feed a new family member. The newcomer is a female Icelandic Spitz that answers to the name of Ada. Together with Byron, an adult Scottish Border Collie, Smrekar and Ada formed a hybrid family as a context for the study of the emotional economy between vastly different species such as human and dog. In the project, Smrekar reflects on her motherly changes and tries to escape the symbolic confines of human families. In her seclusion, Smrekar dis-humanized herself in such a way that her hybrid family allows us to see the zoe-bios opposition through the eyes of a pre-humanist (Aristotelian) human animal, without humanizing the animal or animalizing the human (Agamben). The artistic process is being documented in a blog in the form of correspondence with the co-curator Jens Hauser, and it follows the psychological and physical transformations that transformed the artists’ body into a bio-political product par excellence.”

For more information check: http://majasmrekar.org/blog

Some of these projects become spaces of interaction for potential micro-narratives. They set out a necessary revision of the taxonomies used in the classification systems related to our condition. Therefore, they open spaces to think on new forms of subjectivity, and some of them illustrate the embodied and embedded nomadic subject, placing us in the estrangement, because we can’t understand us anymore as we did some years ago.

But are we prepared to think on subjectivity as a possibility of being-extended-with-the-others-in-the-estrangement? Are we willing to accept Being-in-Difference?. Taking the notion of a posthuman subjectivity referring to a nomadic and relational subject from a monistic ontology, a zoe-centred conception, a tranversal subject entitiy fully inmersed in and inmanent to a network of non-human relations, some question on relational ethics come up to my mind.

At the end of the book The Posthman,  Rosi Braidotti remarks:

The key notion in posthuman nomadic ethics is the transcendence of negativity. What this means concretely is that the conditions for renewed political and ethical agency cannot be drawn from the immediate context or the current state of the terrain (Braidotti, 2013)”

So, my question is, Do you consider that a renewed agency could be an extended and distrubuted agency? A sort of Spinozean-Delezian agency, distributed but not suspended? An angency that belongs to the amount of others that compound the non-unitarian post-antropocentric subjectivy? Or this is an aporia? Beacuse it seems to me that some projects are confronting us to think the possibility of a distributed agency, an agency that does not dilute the human being, but dilutes the hierarchical conception of the human, proposing a displacement from a pyramidal structure to a distribution agency as an extension, or network; that is, a conception of the agency that includes the others that co-configure a context with us, leaving behind the binary division between human-non-human. A concept of agency that allows us to re-define a starting point to manage the possibility of a different co-being, a being-in-difference that helps us to see the limits of Ethics, and to open the boundaries to what we could call a being-extended-with-in-the-others-in-the-estrangement, a conception of symbiotic inter-dependence.

To conclude I think that it is important to remark that theory can disrupt, or disorganise, boundaries but, at the same time, simultaneously, theory formation also entails the materialization of boundaries. In the same way, the will to evolve to a post-anthropocentric perspective does not implied, per se, the no-intrumentalization of thoses non-human others.

 

Literature:

Barad, Karen. What is the Measure of Nothingness? Infinity, Virtuality, Justice / Was ist das Maß des Nichts? Unendlichkeit, Virtualität, Gerechtigkeit, Book Nº099 of dOCUMENTA (13): 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts / 100 Notizen – 100 Gedanken, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012, 36p.

—. “On Touching – The Inhuman That Therefore I Am,” in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 23(3): 206-223.

—. “Nature’s Queer Performativity” in: Kvinder, Køn og forskning/ Women, Gender and Research, Copenhagen, No. 1- 2 (2012) Feminist Materialisms, pp. 25-53.

Agential Realism: Feminist Interventions in Understanding Scientific Practices,” in The Science Studies Reader, edited by Mario Biagioli, NY: Routledge Press, 1998.

Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013.

—. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

 

 

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Leon Human
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Dear Laura. Very interesting thoughts about posthumanisms in the plural and the artist’s escape from the symbolic confines of human families. This symbolic escape from the artistic process is more difficult. Piecemeal, micro-narratives are important then, and I agree with your use of Braidotti that the immediate context provides very little qua conditions for posthuman ethical agency. But diluting the hierarchy and historical conceptions of humanity are, as you state, always a beginning.

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