5.1. A becoming of praxis
The research set out from a question of how to create spaces where different bodies can ‘meet’ in their mutual differences, and engage in a ‘shared conversation’ across the binaries of the logic of dualism. Through the research process i intra-acted with material bodies, and these encounters mod(e)ified (and were modified) by the research questions. These entanglements can be best sensed in the trajectory of the praxis. What i will seek in this concluding section is to analyse the touches and ruptures that appeared in the process. First, i will summarise the three performative modes of the praxis1.
The first performativity of my eco-aesthetic practice, is, after Foucault, an ‘ontology of the present’, a critical analysis of the operative ‘protocols’ that govern relations between humans and earth others. Ontology of the present in this research springs from ecofeminist analysis of the ‘logic of dualism’ or ‘colonisation’ (Plumwood, 1993). The system of binaries forms a general ‘web of oppression’ (Plumwood, 1992) that operates throughout cultures and natures as a material-discursive system of ‘functional differentiation’ (Wolfe, 2010) or ‘state of exception’ (Agamben, 1995), which, by way of exclusion, appropriates agency and power. Mechanisms of appropriation-by-exclusion support capitalist economies, imperialism and patriarchy (Mies, 1986; Federici, 2012; Moore, 2015). The epistemological dimension of this project can be seen in representationalism, which creates separate ‘kingdoms’ of words and things, knower and known, mapper and mapped, image and world. Especially problematic modes of dualisation that spring from representationalism are information (cybernetics), mapping, and, perhaps most pervasively, network (here taken both as ontology and information architecture). These material-discursive practices are understood here to operate as boundary-making systems that pervade the social field. In this project i have sought to develop situated performative approaches that propose and enact a different logic, an infraphysics of becoming with earth others.
An existing constellation of alternative world-making projects, recent object-, matter-, and nonhuman-oriented philosophies, provided territories in which to situate my praxis (see 1.4–1.7). By following their areas of concern and intervention, notions such as object, matter, and nonhuman have begun to be alleviated from the grids of the logic of dualism. With this non-binary approach, i join a transversal shared conversation between arts and philosophy, that i have tentatively called a posthumanist art―philosophy continuum of experimentation.
The second performative mode of praxis is what i have called analytics of the possible. Based on agential realist elaboration of agency in Karen Barad, Foucault’s and Deleuze’s notions of apparatus and assemblage, as well as Barad’s own understanding of apparatus, i have postulated two distinct dynamics of spacetimemattering, two modes of (re)production of difference. Apparatuses (dispositifs) are performances of boundary-drawing, enacted by an ‘agential cut’ that determines what ‘comes to matter’ (Barad, 2007) and what withdraws/virtualises (De Landa, 2002; Harman, 2005; Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, 2015). Through iteration of ‘agential cuts’, apparatuses ‘stratify’ power-knowledge diagrams (Deleuze, 1988), possibility spacetimes of a given formation. From the stratification of apparatus techniques emerges the disposition of the apparatus, which can be majoritarian or minoritarian. Majoritarian apparatuses tend towards control of possibilities, while minoritarian apparatuses try to keep the boundaries open. Assemblage (agencement) is a ‘polyphonic’ (Tsing, 2015) performance of differentiation in which agencies experiment possibilities of becoming-other. Some of these desiring experimentations actualise in flashes of becoming (DG, 1987), transformations in collective possibilities, emergence of new ‘symbioses’ or ‘sympathies’ (Deleuze, in De Landa, 2006: 121). Following feminist critical epistemologies, i have claimed that assemblages can be characterised in terms of collective practices of knowing/being, where i draw on feminist standpoint theory and Haraway’s notion of situated knowledge (1991). Posthuman assemblages as knowings in common are ‘situated-dispersals’ (Górska, 2016) of accountability and response-ability. Assemblages are locations of posthuman polytics of becoming (Rich, 1984; Braidotti, 2011).
Apparatuses and assemblages are not two exterior or opposed types of bodies, but different performances of spacetimemattering that cross-cut and entangle among themselves. Modern protocols that enact the logic of dualism essentially perform according to the apparatus dynamics, determining power based on inclusions and exclusions. By re-interpreting the logic of apparatus with Deleuze and Guattari as a mode of production of majority and minority (1987), a polytics of becoming was postulated as consisting in minoritarian reconfiguration of apparatuses, unfolding their power relations to affirm the oppressed differences.
I called this type of performance a minoritarian apparatus, a ‘summoning’ of multispecies assemblages. This is the third performative mode of my posthuman praxis: infraphysics of becoming. The three modes—ontology of the present, analytics of the possible, infraphysics of becoming—are co-constituted through intra-action with other material-discursive nexuses. The research proceeded through situating (ontology), orientation/disposal (analytics) and infraphysics (eco-aesthetic performance): learning to know where one is located through the critique, what the possibilities are, and experimenting towards more open and multiple possibilities. These modes mattered in the same way, but to different degrees and intensities at different points. At their most intense, various discursive and material bodies came together/apart in site-specific eco-aesthetic performances.
The performances developed were embedded in the context of everyday life, starting from my own body and inviting other neighbouring bodies. Following feminist economic analysis, it was understood that ‘frontiers’ of appropriation are ubiquitous in the present informational economy. Based on this, home and office became the first site of performance. In early dancing ecologies, i suspended my quotidian mores in order to ‘dance’ around a household plant as a mode of shared ‘immaterial labour’ of breathing. Subsequently, by tracing material apparatuses of biopower over trees, i tried to re(con)figure the supply chain of paper that runs from a forest to the stock exchange (grow cut buy sell, black box white paper), and to slow down the economy of ‘carbon trading’ (all that is air melts into city). Intra-actions emergent in these works made me reconsider the networked modality of work i had adopted up to that point. In the projects that followed, a greater emphasis was placed on in/determinacy, a sensing of zones of freedom and desires of the bodies involved.
office of ecological labour and counting live stock(s) intensified the key operations of the apparatus dynamics (its agential cutting and territorialisation), through emphasis on numerical and coding procedures. By placing myself and human co-performers firmly along the power lines of apparatus, what began emerging more distinctly are latent possibilities of apparatuses. By occupying the thresholds of possibilities, these performances started torquing the apparatus against itself. Numbers were not any more coded signifiers, they became bodies, that, in proximity of other heterogeneous bodies, showed more vividly the difference as it is made and unmade (translated). Slowly, ‘through-and-against’ apparatuses, the performativity started ‘reorienting’ (Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, 2015) towards the inhuman.
From an engagement with air and associated processes, the second group of the projects moved towards earth. In #copper #love #maintenance, a more expanded performativity was sought by situating and dispersing desire from and across the internet. This project in particular has yet to come to full completion, but, in its firts phase, it created an entanglement with earth bodies that has then occupied the rest of the research. In mineralizacija, i hope to have enacted a minoritarian apparatus that might have touched upon the possibility of assemblage. I (self-)touched a rock and was (self-)touched by it2. Admittedly, in everyday life, i touch and am touched by rocks many times. However, meeting rocks in the conditions of a smelting and mining combine is a different power relation. When i came to meet rocks cooling down on the pile of slag next to the smelter in Bor, the rocks had been through a lot (mining, flotation, furnace). I had to make my way through a web of institutions, technologies, and discourses. At that moment, both the rock and myself were relative minorities in the context. I picked up these rocks and unmined them, i.e. took them through and away from the apparatus of extraction. In this asymmetrical intra-action, where i certainly still was a majority, i became response-able for a number of rock bodies. The determinacy of the extractive-industrial apparatus was made more porous and indeterminate for the spacetime of this intra-action. I have withdrawn the rocks from further extraction, while i have withdrawn from my own extractivist subjectivity to become occupied deeper by the lithosphere. This performance involved a number of other humans and bodies, and i believe they have experienced different degrees of withdrawal and occupation as well. If this performative apparatus effectively became an assemblage is something that extends beyond the contained spacetime of that situated intra-action, at this stage it is to the earth to respond.
5.2. Affirmation of in/determinacy
From the above, i will try to respond to the first research question: how to perform shifts from dualistic apparatuses towards posthuman assemblies. Understood as an actualised gathering of heterogeneous agencies experimenting with their singular freedoms, a key understanding gathered is that it is not possible to ‘set up’ or ‘organise’ a naturalcultural assemblage, lest of re-creating a power diagram and hierarchical apparatus. Assemblages cannot be created or designed by a subject who then implements a plan. This is the most important lesson i have learned from new guinea, dragon trees, carbon-dioxide, sheep, and minerals. But this is not a negative answer, it is troubling and messy, but only if taken from the apparatus perspective.
The situatedness of this research are apparatuses of biopolitics and biocapitalism, this is where its performativity begins. In this nexus of late capitalism, art, and research, all one ‘sees’ or is afforded to see are subjects and objects, protocols, codes, disciplines. However, these apparatuses capture only a fraction of a multiplicity of worlding processes. Apparatuses themselves participate in (re)production of in/determinacy, recreating the conditions of dis/continuity which are constitutive of the way in which matter ‘comes to matter’ (Barad, 2003). Learning from quantum physics, we see that even electrons are profoundly ‘queer’, tirelessly experimenting with their own identity and possibilities for change (Barad, 2012, 2015). However, this nature’s ‘queer performativity’ (Barad, 2012) is suppressed in most contemporary social practices. How to render justice to this immanent and intimate ‘tethering’ of matter, to its in/determinacy, is not only a micropolitical or quantum problem. The in/determinacy of matter, its capacity to self-experiment has to do everything with large-scale bodies, the birds, the cattle, the climate, the stars. Through my encounters with heterogeneous bodies, i have been learning how to get sensitised to some of this excitedness pertaining to intra-actions of matters. Bodies want to move or to stand still. Eco-aesthetics is a matter of how to intra-actively touch and be touched by these performances.
Touching is a matter of response-ability of multiple bodies, of wasps and orchids, of cats and humans. ‘We’ as humans are already implicated in so many of these touches, these are assemblages that keep us alive. It would be impossible to breathe for a second without them. Affirmations of desire and possibilities, yearnings of matter, is ethico-polytical intra-activity of the world that never stops. I take it that ethico-polytical in/determinations are being co-performed by lions and zebras, as well as algae and the sun. No relation is settled ‘once and for all’, and settlements can collapse or be renewed anytime. The human is always differentially accountable and responsible to other bodies, and others are as well. ‘Choices’ and ‘freedoms’ are a continuous performance, a ‘cosmopolitics’ of matter (Stengers, 2004). The key word here is ‘differentially’, because each body is differently emplaced within the folds of spacetimemattering, and, what is specific (but not extraordinary) for humans is the extent of forces that they partake in it especially via bio-political and -capitalist apparatuses.
From where i stand, amidst an art/research apparatus which is in relations of dis/continuity with biocapitalism, imagining environmental posthuman justice begins with ‘self-withdrawal’ (Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, 2015). Self is part of the apparatus, it is performed by and it sustains the apparatus in its turn. Self-withdrawal is thus a beginning of withdrawal of the dynamics of the apparatus, of its boundary-making, power-knowledge, territory. It is desubjectivation, a leaving of the territory that pulls an ensemble of power lines away from the majority of the apparatus. The question is not where to withdraw. Withdrawal does not amount to ‘exiting’ from a perceived union to an independence, which amounts to creating another apparatus, perhaps with more power or determination in ‘our’ hands. Self-withdrawal is a deeper enmeshment with the proximate bodies, seeking ‘neighbours’ or proximates that one didn’t know were there. In the way biopolitical apparatuses distribute ‘light’, they almost always ‘invisibilise’ the inhuman (Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, 2015). Yet, it is ‘always already’ here.
In order to work around this relative blindness produced by any apparatus (even animals and plants see selectively), a ‘self’ needs support. By torquing multiple apparatuses away from themselves, a transversal apparatus can take be affirmed. This minoritarian apparatus ‘sees’ in multiple ways, it ‘touches’ in multiple directions. It is still conditioned by majoritarian apparatuses, but it decelerates the agential cut and power-knowledges, it creates a zone of ‘approximation’ (DG, 1987). By collectively experimenting with disposition, minoritarian apparatus is trying to ‘face the inhuman’ (Barad, 2012). Karen Barad call this methodology of intersecting apparatuses ‘diffraction’ (2007). More in line with the situatedness of my practice, i feel affinity with ‘situated-dispersal’ (Górska, 2016). Minoritarian apparatus is trying to ‘face’ and to ‘summon’ a touch of anotherness. Facing-summoning is one side of this apparatus, the other one is touching-becoming.
For differences to ‘meet’, this implies that a majority (in this case, the human), and a minority (in this case, the inhuman) touch. Assembling posthuman ecologies is thus a matter of (self-)touching the earth bodies. ‘We’ cannot know what the earth truly ‘wants’, but ‘we’ can keep on approximating its desires. Because i am implicated in infinitely many intimate ways with the earth, and my desires are not (only) my own, touches may come to touch. Posthuman becomings, realisation or virtualisation of naturalcultural commons, is about a situated intensification of desires that are ‘always already’ there, they are the ‘latent commons’ (Tsing, 2015). Becoming as an assertion of freedom of coexistence is always multiply enacted across bodies, species, lines.
A ‘rupture’ in the logic of apparatus thus comes from in-between, not from my own or something else’s will. Rarely it is a geometric “meeting halfway”, more commonly it is asymmetrical (as when the earth and lightning meet). To assemble is to become occupied by anotherness. This can only happen “by heart, by will and by chance” (Dolphijn, 2015: 197). Therefore, assemblage intra-action is a “loving perception” (Lugones, 1988) of difference. As i have tried to show, most of the time, we don’t even know who perceives us lovingly, who supports us at each and every moment. This wood, these minerals, this water, this air, this bedrock. At any rate, the world is ‘facing’ us, listening and yearning.
In the posthumanist continuum, eco-aesthetics is about yearning for the inhuman, the plant, the animal, the earth other, learning inhuman loves. Yearning ‘for’ means facing ‘before’: before the future, maintaining “the conditions of an open future” (Barad, 2007: 177), and for the past, accounting for the touches that may have already come without them being noticed. Inhuman love is not a relation, a call-and-answer, a utopian future, it is about becoming response-able to what supports us and reproducing possibilities of differential mattering, sometimes in common, sometimes apart. In any given place, some possibilities are more possible than others. Therefore, posthuman mattering is taking responsibility to re-iterate local dispositions, further response-abilities, to support and be supported by more free occupations and withdrawals.
5.3. Posthuman eco-aesthetics in the social
This brings me to the second research question, of how to create and maintain spaces for posthuman performative knowledges in the context of human apparatuses of visual arts and research. In most important sense, this research, art, and knowings are not (only) my own. I cannot represent earth others in this seat, but i try to maintain a minor territory for it to ‘come to matter’, and to draw myself and others with to face them with ‘loving perception’. The research outputs and performances are a trace of material and discursive intra-actions in which i have taken part. Only to a degree these intra-actions were planned or known. I do take a greatest share of responsibility in them, since i have initiated most of them and they marked many bodies, causing injustices, exhaustion, abandonment, and probably pain and suffering. It is to these bodies, my willing and unwitting associates and co-conspirators (co-breathers), that my responsibility lies with, first and foremost. I have also been marked in these intra-actions, and i carry memories of them, as well as forgettings. Responsibility also lies ‘before’ a future, to iterate accountability, to ‘begin’ again, to go back to the bodies, to keep ‘our’ material stories alive.
Telling a story of naturalcultural performances is the problem of the ‘can’t yet must’ of representation, as Astrida Neimanis pointed out (2015). How not to re-create apparatuses of capture, how not to reappropriate agencies for one’s own purposes, is a constant struggle that permeates each performance, their documentation, and writing through them. In some seats i will have taken over, in others more just happenings will happen.
It is key to try to affirm that these performances and knowledges thus produced are not entirely ‘human’. “The stories we know of stone will always be human stories…” (Cohen, 2015: 11). This is true, but some ‘human stories’ can also be shared conversations for/before a stone, posthuman gatherings that do not fully belong to any one, a posthuman commons of knowing, sensation and desire. To decolonise the apparatuses of art and research is another important practice that goes in hand with decolonisation of nature. This is what, i believe, Cary Wolfe points at when he envisages posthumanist thinking as “mutational, viral, or parasitic form of thinking” (2010: xvi, xix). It is about re-iterating this parasitic openness, porosity, in/determinacy through the praxis, allowing it to become and remain not only mine and not only human.
In light of this, it is essential for the posthuman eco-aesthetics to withdraw from territories that it stakes at the present. One possibility of this consits in putting to work minoritarian apparatuses that intra-act in-between arts, sciences, technology, politics. By creating minoritarian modes of co-work, instead of keeping eyes on one another, the question becomes how to collectively withdraw to open decolonised zones of approximation where inhuman may come to matter. In the case of this research, minoritarian ethos was co-produced through material-discursive intra-action with posthumanist authors that incessantly troubled many of my aesthetic determinations. Even more demanding was radical in/determinacy that extra-human bodies kept re-asserting, a constitutive power that can only be celebrated by becoming-minor in regard to the established modes of making art, where ‘author’, ‘object’, ‘medium’, ‘action’ are pre-determined bodies or processes.
With Elizabeth Grosz (2008), the disposition of posthuman art is to participate in a broader ‘evolutionary art’, an art of co-performing ‘aparallel evolutions’ (DG, 1987: 11). A posthuman art, an eco-aesthetics that desires posthuman justice, is trans-individual and extra- or rather infra-disciplinary, ‘extending’ the social through spacetimematter into ‘deep times’ of pasts and future, while being rooted in the urgency of here and now. It is an art of re-iteration, re(con)figuration of bodies with other bodies. Some naturalcultural performances may need to extend across generations and millennia3.
Will this minoritarian posthuman-oriented eco-aesthetic be any closer to a more-than-human environmental justice? Bodies come together and apart through thousands of tiny and less tiny ‘efforts’, and facing this mattering buzz with response-ability is to invoke possibilities of becoming. From my situated location as a quasi-modern quasi-human, to experiment ways of ‘meeting halfway’ with unique, singular squirrels, spiders, and multitudes of earth others looks so obvious yet glaringly unknown. “In this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet” (DG, 1983: 240), or painfully little. Matter is ‘flush’ with imaginings to become, and some of these worldly possibilities (self-)touch the possibilities of the human present.
5.4. Posthuman ecology and climate justice
In the course of this research i have been touched by numerous other projects, but i have not been able to respond to all of them. However, i feel responsible to point them out to my posthumanist and other companions. I hope to accept some of these invitations in the future, and to extend hospitality to some of them. Further dialogue of posthumanism with feminist intersectional theories, especially with regards to race and social locations and struggles is central. How to move towards enacting “thousand tiny races” (Saldanha, 2006: 20), “thousand tiny intersections” (Dolphijn & van der Tuin, 2011), “thousand tiny sexes” (Grosz, 1993) is a matter of collective transversal experimentation. These intersections go beyond theory, and should be put in shared conversation with social movements, something to be learned from the recent conjunctions between movements for racial and environmental justice in the U.S. (McKee, 2016). Commons as key notion of recent social struggles against the propertisation of life (Hardt & Negri, 2008, 2012; Linebaugh, 2014) has important potentials for imagining and enacting an earth-centred polytics, as already outlined by Miriam Tola (2015). Further rapprochement between the new generations of materialisms, in which i have been immersed, with previous generations of materialist thought is due, as Diana Coole envisaged with ‘capacious historical materialism’ (Coole, 2013). Lastly, and perhaps crucially, a great attention and effort is needed to counter the still ongoing minoritisation of non-European, non-Western philosophies and arts, in academia and beyond. Posthumanisms and neomaterialisms are especially responsible in this context, as their claims sometimes have affiinities with indigenous or nonmodern philosophies, however these connections are often unacknowledged or omitted, something which Zoe Todd (2014) and other indigenous scholars rightfully insist on. Decolonising research methodologies, artistic practices and academia are constituent parts of a struggle for climate justice (Demos, 2016: 22-25).
To continue, i will turn towards another assembly, an act of radical social imagination that resonates strongly with posthuman polytics and aesthetics. In 2010 at Cochabamba, Bolivia, People’s Climate Change Conference, set up as an alternative to the UN Conference of Parties, voted in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Although it is fashioned after the humanist ideals of ‘universal rights’, the Declaration reorients the modern lawscape away from itself to gaze into the cracks it produces. The Declaration states:
(1) Mother Earth is a living being. ….
(5) Mother Earth and all beings are entitled to all the inherent rights recognized in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as may be made between organic and inorganic beings, species, origin, use to human beings, or any other status.
The assembly of People’s Climate Change Conference to my knowledge did not involve direct consultation with extra-human bodies, however, it created a zone of approximation that faces towards earth others. The powerful corporations of extraction are still casting their powers over the forests of Ecuador and Bolivia, but the Declaration summons an ‘existential territory’ on which different types of ‘shared conversations’ and legal struggles can be enacted. As the text itself reveals at a closer inspection, humans do not ‘know’ how to implement these rights, even what the ‘specific’ rights of singular species or bodies. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth is a beginning of many practices of assembly to come.
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- In line with the espousal of performative ontology (Pickering, 1995; Barad, 2007), all the methods in the research are taken to be entanglements of discursive and material. For details, see 2.1.
- For the explananation of (self-)touching as a dynamics of knowing/being, refer to section 2.4.
- This is made painfully obvious, for example, in the case of temporalities invoked by nuclear energy. A recent exhibition, Don’t Follow the Wind (2015 – ), initiated by the artist collective Chim↑Pom, and curated by Kenji Kubota, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Jason H. Waite, takes place in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. It is the area of radioactive melt-down of Fukushima Daiichi power plant following the tsunami in March 2011. At the present, the exhibition is inaccessible to (human) audience, and the website of the project is a blank page with a short verbal announcement. However, even beyond these ‘hyperobjects’ (Morton, 2013), there are innumerable other encounters that shape our everyday latent commons.