Lesson 1

Approaching the Posthuman in Art

Jacob Wamberg

In this first lesson, we take a broad perspective on the concept of the posthuman, give it a historical context and illustrate how it pervades twentieth and twenty-first-century art. Focusing on defining the concept in a narrow sense, we consider how modern culture actively influences biological evolution; we consider gene modification, prosthetics, nano robotics, BioArt, digital art and other themes, particularly how avant-garde art negotiates the contradictions inherent in a human condition predicated on an intertwinement of technology, environment and sociality. All this will be framed using the most important theoretical framings of the posthuman.


Jack Burnham, “The Future of Responsive Systems in Art”, from Burnham, Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of this Century, New York: George Braziller, 1987 [1967], pp. 359-76.

Stefan Herbrechter, ”Towards a critical posthumanism”, from Posthumanism: A critical analysis, London: Bloomsbury, 2013 [2009], pp. 1-29.

Hans Sedlmayr, ”Analogia mori” og ”Today as the Turning Point in the History of Man”, from Art in Crisis: The Lost Center, trans. Brian Battershaw (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers,  2007 (1957 [1948]), pp. 147-69 og 236-42.

Assignment (please read “Assignments” before posting)

  • 200-300 words post on the course blog. Find a pertinent example of the posthuman at work in art or society and reflect on it. Add a featured image or embed a video in your post. If you’re working with a literary text, quote it! Use your example to reflect upon these two questions, using the texts above or similar theoretical references:
    • 1) Which criteria define the posthuman in general? and
    • 2) Which markers of the posthuman do we find in art?
    • Remember to use the correct category and tags
  • After posting your own assignment on the course blog, find at least two other posts and reply to them in a critically engaging way in a 50-100 word comment. One of these comments must be made to a post from a group member.
  • Assignment due: October 7 at 12:00