Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Earth Forces: Contemporary Land Arts, Technology and New Materialist Aesthetics

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Earth Forces: Contemporary Land Arts, Technology and New Materialist Aesthetics

Article excerpt

Earth Forces: Contemporary Land Arts, Technology and New Materialist Aesthetics

In fact, the Earth speaks to us in terms of forces, bonds, and interactions, and that's enough to make a contract. Each of the partners in symbiosis thus owes, by rights, life to the other, on pain of death.

Michel Serres1

-INTRODUCTION

There are more interesting aspects to the term posthuman than mere talk about the end of the human. Indeed, in recent new materialist philosophy two approaches that stem from a Deleuzian background both suggest a problematisation of the term 'post'. Brian Massumi, in What%Animals%Teach%us%About%Politics, argues for a route that abandons the temporally too linear talk about the end of the human. Instead, consistent with an ontological stance towards the continuities across the animal- human continuum, he reminds us that any talk of the posthuman would have had to anyway already tell us what the human is or was. Hence, the 'more-than-human' becomes a preferred term for Massumi.2 His aim is to address the middle of the various terms that offer typological differences, although in material reality offer only differences in intensities.3 In other words, the task becomes to think of materiality through those differences in intensities. Indeed, Massumi finds an ally in Judith Butler, whose words he quotes when referring to the need to find the point where 'typological thinking falls apart'.4 It is this insistence on regimes of reality other than (merely) typological naming that is able to track the constantly more- than-human that defines and sustains the human.

In her approach, Rosi Braidotti sticks with the term posthuman. She tracks the possibility of finding non-linguistic regimes through which to develop immanent relations with the material reality that is not defined through the primacy of the human as a cognitive or sensing entity. Against the regulatory historical framework one that foregrounds alternatives to anthropocentric formations.5 Despite using the of the nonhuman that stems from a Foucault-Deleuze set of antihumanism and a wider appreciation of the primacy of relations as an ethical stance allowing the development of ontogenic, transversal ties across species in ways that refer to Donna Haraway's work as much as to a Spinozian ontology. For Braidotti, the notion of the posthuman becomes a convenient way to place this sort of subjectivity in a camp that is neither postmodern (the posthuman is not anti-foundationalist), nor poststructural (for Braidotti, the posthuman is not based on frameworks of language). Rather, this is a new materialist, embedded and located subjectivity that does not draw so much on the celebration of the nonhuman of certain sorts of of life that are irreducible to the human being.6 Indeed, the notion of materiality of matter that is real, becomes an ethical stance. As Braidotti insists: 'Far from being a flight from the real, posthuman thought inscribes the contemporary subject in the same conditions of its own historicity.'7

In both Massumi's and Braidotti's accounts, and more broadly as part of the thrust of animal studies, the displacement of the subject returns a focus to animal realities or the wider forces of the zoe.8 In a way, this points to a complementary set of questions and concepts to that of the biopolitical. For Massumi, the question is less about the subject and subjectivity than about conceptualising the territories, intensities and relations in which the more-than-human happens. Hence, animal politics becomes a 'lesson' in the 'relational techniques of lived abstraction', a key term for Massumi who links it to the virtual in the Deleuzian sense.9 It marks the lived experience as a potentiality that does not refer to the actual embodiment based on subject-object relations. Instead, terms such as inter-givenness are used by Massumi to highlight the co-determining primacy of the relation in which experience becomes and is defined by its potentiality. …

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