“Rhetorics of depth or intensity must be sacrificed, not because actual bodies are abstractions, but because unbound posthumanism cannot frame the deracinative effects of the future as the adventure of some given subject (whether human, animal, mundane, or transcendental). If this future can be embodied, it is by remaking and remarking bodies, reiterating the disconnection that lifts the formerly human into the orbit of the posthuman.” (p. 82). …
“Posthumanism explores the possibility space of subjectivity through performance— mutating and experimenting with exemplars and models (biomorphs) rather than by inference or dialectics.” (p. 82). …
“I introduce the idea of limit agency to motivate the claim that our concepts of agency might be too parochial to travel far outside our historical niche. If so, unbinding posthumanism requires us to relinquish them as constraints on the potentialities released by the posthuman predicament. Thus, even the ecological agent of Posthuman Life proves too “speculative” for speculative posthumanism, which thus loses its means of identifying disconnection events. We must withdraw from speculations on technological deep-time bounded by a psychology-free ecological agency to terrain where disconnection becomes “maximally unbound.”” (p. 85).
—David Roden, Posthumanism: Critical, Speculative, Biomorphic
As I’m reading David’s essay which deals with the various posthuman thought of the vitalists like Braidotti; or the neorationalists like Brassier; the Non-Philosophy of Lauruelle (this third providing an immanent path not of representation but rather a non-representational performative thought) we get a thought that is neither representational nor non-representational but an experimental interplay of both/and through a release of biomorphic dynamics. As he puts it “unlike Non-Philosophy or critical posthumanism, biomorphic posthumanism has no thought of resistance. While its inhuman “human” exists on an alien planet unmeasured by philosophy, there is nothing remotely emancipatory about this unmeasure. It is not, after all, philosophy that deracinates the (in)human. The Wide Human deracinates itself.” (p. 87). The notion of deracinate goes back to a sense of being plucked out of its environment or milieu, an uprooting that as David would have it disconnects the Wide Human from its connection to the old embedded field of the human as we’ve known it. An immanent and experimental play of forces in continuous biomorphic mutation and transformation. As he states: “The posthuman predicament disconnects the human/inhuman; generating novel modes of existence. The figure of the biomorph… performs or disseminates this effect. The biomorph is, then, a model of the torsions and stresses of the posthuman predicament translated into its proprietary format. (p. 87).”
As David suggests in a “maximally unbound posthuman,” there is no agent based ontology by which to judge whether something has become disconnected from the Wide Human. He’ll explore the effects of the Japanese notion of hikikomori’s (young men that withdraw from social life into online worlds) immersion in Ben Yeager’s Amygdalatropolis. David will ask the question about the character 1404er: “Is /1404er/ human, or posthuman? There is, of course, no interesting binary answer to this. What is important is that the novel performs the distance between /1404er/ and our fragile judgments of who or what composes the human.” (p. 87). What we discover is that the biomorphic is “embodied (it is felt, however opaquely) and aesthetic insofar as what constitutes “disconnection” is now mediated through form and reading. Thus, as in the Atrocity Exhibition or Amygdalatropolis, art can be a source of biomorphic models for the deracinating potentials of the posthuman predicament.” (p. 87).
He’ll explore in the works of Hans Bellmer, J.G. Ballard, and Gary J. Shipley the notion of the biomorphic as a subtraction of life. “A biomorphism extends “no-need into no-utility … no-utility into ‘art’” (Massumi 2005: 131; Roden 2014: 189).” (p. 88).
Bellmer’s perverse dolls subtract the subjective sense, a perversion as “counter-ethics”: the “subtractive passion is not for anything and must, like the biomorph, produce the thing it thinks (Tracy McNulty 2013: 33, 2013).” (p. 89). As David will surmise:
“While Bellmer’s doll provides a fundamental anatomical module of extroversion: the preemption of desire by the teaming unlife of the posthuman predicament, it is perhaps still too domesticated, too sexualized to hint at its planetary compass. Ballard’s pornography of violence is similarly anagrammatic but explicitly imbricated within the technological landscapes of modernity (see Roden 2002).” (p. 89).
Speaking of Vaughn in J.G. Ballard’s Crash he states: “This biomorph is utterly subtractive; without unity or sense beyond its multiple symbolic ties to the “unique event” that we know, from the novel’s outset, cannot occur. The future is thus abolished and unbound in the most elegant gesture by this terminal metaphor. Ballard’s cyborgian sexuality doesn’t just puncture our skin-bag in the style of the contemporary “posthumanities.” It unbinds agency as such, extroverting the body into a limitless multiple.” (p. 89).
In his estimation of Gary J. Shipley Roden tells us: “Gary Shipley’s work is often compared to Ballard for its single-minded estrangement of sense. Yet it refuses even more, the satisfactions of setting and psychology. It is sometimes marketed as “concept horror”—which is accurate insofar as it is the concept which does most of the hurting here—remarked, disjointed, its grammatical lifelines sliced, and hamstrung. In a sense, it is one of the purest expressions of a formal disconnection of thought from thought.” (p. 90).
Speaking of Gary’s Warewolff! he suggests that something happens, “even if we do not understand what. Its dispersal is the horror of biomorphism: a condition somewhat akin to life that, like Shipley’s alien, “discloses its arrangements” through our language centers. And this is the condition of unbinding: we are spoken by something; we pass into something without even the assurance that our hunger is our own.” (p. 91).
Ultimately the biomorphic paradigm suggests an imperonalism and cold intelligence that “deracinates” itself out of its human enclave in the evolutionary tree and into a myriad of non-agential biomorphic prodigy. This sense that something is working in and through the human to become posthuman. Something that cannot be named so much as performed.
- Mads Rosendahl Thomsen and Jacob Wamberg (Author), Mads Rosendahl Thomsen (Editor), Jacob Wamberg (Editor). The Bloomsbury Handbook of Posthumanism. Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (July 23, 2020)