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POSTHUMANISM Basic Media Art Histories Lecture by Sameh Al Tawil 2013

Human Vs. Machine

Charlie Chaplin - Modern Times (1936)

Traditional Humanism

! - Emphasizes the power of individual human mind. - Privileges “rational” thought over embodied emotion. - Values individual autonomy / agency - Draws strong binary distinctions between humans/technologies and humans/animals. - Positions white male as the archetypal “human”

Posthumanism or post-humanism (meaning "after humanism" or "beyond humanism") is a term with five definitions:

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1. Antihumanism: a term applied to a number of thinkers opposed to the project of philosophical anthropology.


2. Cultural posthumanism: a cultural direction which strives to move beyond archaic concepts of "human nature" to develop ones which constantly adapt to contemporary technoscientific knowledge.


3. Philosophical posthumanism: a philosophical direction which is critical of the foundational assumptions of Renaissance humanism and its legacy.


4. Transhumanism: an ideology and movement which seeks to develop and make available technologies that eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities, in order to achieve a "posthuman future�.


5. Posthuman condition: the deconstruction of the human condition by critical theorists.

Cyborg, short for "cybernetic organism", is a being with both organic and artificial parts. The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. D. S. Halacy's Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman in 1965 featured an introduction which spoke of a "new frontier" that was "not merely space, but more profoundly the relationship between 'inner space' to 'outer space' – a bridge...between mind and matter.� The beginning of Cyborg creation began when HCI (humancomputer interaction) began. There is a clear distinction between the human and computerized technology in HCI, which differs from cyborgs in that cyborgs act out human functions.

Organism (natural) Complex, inflexible feedback loop Too much change – organism will die !

+ Cybernetic (artificial) Flexible feedback loop, Responsive to stimuli, able to adapt to survive

= Cyborg

Expansion of human capabilities through technology

Metropolis (1927) Maschinenmensch (German for ‘machine-human’) Given human appearance to deceive others ! ! ! ! ! ! !

The Terminator (1984) • Fear of artificial intelligence gaining agency and posing a threat to the human race !

• Part machine (internal artificial, enhanced endoskeleton) !

• Part human (outer, organic external casing)

Li Wei (born in 1970, Hubei, China)

A contemporary artist from Beijing, China. His work often depicts him in apparently gravity-defying situations. Wei started off his performance series, Mirroring, and later on took off attention with his Falls series which shows the artist with his head and chest embedded into the ground. His work is a mixture of performance art and photography that creates illusions of a sometimes dangerous reality. Li Wei states that these images are not computer montages, but that he uses mirrors, metal wires, scaffolding and acrobatics.[1]

Li Wei (born in 1970, Hubei, China)

Li Wei (born in 1970, Hubei, China)

Subjects reach beyond the limitations of science and the body

Stelarc “augmenting the body’s architecture”

- Seeks to free body from gravity !

- Augmentation of body – ear on arm project, extending body beyond boundaries of skin and physical space !

“What becomes important now is not merely the body's identity, but its connectivity – not its mobility or location, but its interface.” Stelarc

SUSPENSIONS exhibition

Stelarc “augmenting the body’s architecture”

SUSPENSIONS exhibition 2012

Donna Haraway ‘The Cyborg Manifesto’

• Cyborg as the “disassembled, reassembled postmodern collective and personal self ” that empowers us through the negotiation of culture and identity • Extends the idea of ‘bodies’ beyond Western origin myths – especially in terms of gender • Existence on the boundaries of human and machine – introduces fluidity and playfulness in enactment of identity

A. Murphie & J. Potts ‘Cyborgs: the body, information and technology’ - Awareness of patterns of control that constrain us can lead to change !

- Cyborg culturally significant metaphor for crossing boundaries of human and non-human – powerful site of resistance to binary systems that structure our worldview !

- Subversively blurs boundaries between oppositional concepts in which one is marked as superior

A. Murphie & J. Potts ‘Cyborgs: the body, information and technology’

• • • • •

Organism Perfec%on Reproduc%on' Nature'/'Culture Mind

• • • • •

Bio%c'component Op%misa%on Replica%on Fields'of'difference Ar%ficial'Intelligence

The posthuman future

• Displacement of human beings from position of superiority in Western thought !

• We are attached to miniature, ubiquitous computing devices that augment our abilities every day. !

• No longer simple to contrast human with non-human

bios (bible)

Robotlab (Matthias Gommel, Martina Haitz, Jan Zappe (DE)) Honorary Mention Hybrid Art Installation. - The installation “Bios [Bible]” consists of an industrial robot that writes down the Bible on rolls of paper.
 The machine draws the calligraphic lines with high precision. Like a monk in the scriptorium it creates the text step by step. v=eEq8D8JfYgs&list=PLdH7iCLIFFlcaWg9oaNCEDrZAukH5L7 rZ

Last Breath (Rafael lozano)

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Last Breath is an installation designed to store and circulate the breath of a person forever. The piece consists of a small brown paper bag which inflates and deflates automatically thanks to motorized bellows similar to those found in artificial respirators in hospitals‌.

Telematix dreaming (Paul Sermon)

May the Horse Live in Me (Laval-Jeantet & Mangin)

POSTHUMANISM In my Own Art-Projects

“ Ready to Go ” performance, Switzerland 2013

“ Integration � performance, Switzerland 2013

“ VS ” Augmented reality / interactive, Cairo 2013

“ A442Hz ” Video / performance, Cairo 2013

References - ! - ! - ! - ! -

! Derrida, J., (2004) Specters of Marx. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. London: Routledge, 2004. (2002) "The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)." Trans. David Wills. (1984) "White Mythology." In Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Derrida, J., and Jean-Luc N. (1991) “Eating Well, or the Calculation of the Subject: an Interview with Jacques Derrida.” In Who Comes After the Subject? Eds. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor and Jean-Luc Nancy. London: Routledge, Journal for Critical Animal Studies, Volume IX, Issue 1/2, 2011 (ISSN1948-352X)

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Reading List: • •

• •

• • • • • • • • • •

! What Is Posthumanism? by Cary Wolfe !

• •

Alien Phenomenology, or What It's Like to Be a Thing by Ian Bogost


Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution

! Posthuman Bodies by J. Jack Halberstam !

Without Offending Humans: A Critique of Animal Rights by Elisabeth de Fontenay

Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines by Dominic Pettman

! HumAnimal: Race, Law, Language by Kalpana Rahita Seshadri ! ! Junkware by Thierry Bardini ! Cosmopolitics I by Isabelle Stengers ! Dorsality: Thinking Back through Technology and Politics ! Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy by Roberto Esposito ! The Poetics of DNA by Judith Roof ! The Parasite by Michel Serres !

Surface Encounters: Thinking with Animals and Art by Ron Broglio


Improper Life: Technology and Biopolitics from Heidegger to Agamben by Timothy C. Campbell


• • • •

! ! ! ! Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Goodreads Author) !

The New Human in Literature: Posthuman Visions of Changes in Body, Mind and Society After 1900 by Mads Rosendahl Thomsen


The Posthuman by Rosi Braidotti (shelved 1 time as posthumanism)

! Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling ! Existence by David Brin (Goodreads Author) !

Humanity's End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement by Nicholas Agar

! iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2) !

by Madeline Ashby

Embodying Technesis: Technology beyond Writing by Mark B.N. Hansen


The Art of Steampunk: Extraordinary Devices and Ingenious Contraptions from the Leading Artists of the Steampunk Movement by Art Donovan


Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems by Bruce Clarke

! Posthumanism by Neil Badmington ! We by Yevgeny Zamyatin ! avg rating 3.74 — 1,563 ratings — published 2012 !

Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self by Stacy Alaimo

Posthumanizm lecture msa 2013  

a lecture about post-humanism in contemporary art within the Media art program at the Modern science and arts university, MSA, Cairo

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