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Daniel Rourke

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Photograph of head and shoulders of man looking down into the camera partly obscured by the close-up fur of the edge of a dog's head.

Figures of Posthuman Becoming: Writing Mutation into the Human Paradigm


My written thesis extends the theoretical field of ‘posthumanism’ through the enactment of what I term a critical posthumanist writing, reconfiguring itself in relation to theory as practice, by confounding articulations of the human in fiction, philosophy, science, and media. Since posthumanism relies on what Rosi Braidotti calls a ‘transit’ between and across often essentialised categories – such as human and machine, nature and culture, theory and fiction – this thesis seeks to distort its perspectival limits as a function of its own critical enquiry, performing itself as a shape-shifting, mobile body undergoing mutation.

After establishing the critical field termed ‘posthumanism’ through analyses of associated discourses such as humanism and transhumanism, the thesis is enacted through four ‘figures’ which speak to certain monstrous dilemmas posed by writers on the posthuman. Each figure – echoing Donna Haraway – ‘resets the stage for possible pasts and futures’ by calling into question the fictional/theoretical ground upon which it is predicated. Each chapter addresses not only the field of posthumanism, but also the fictions, metaphors, and discourses it operates through; about how they co-function to found the perturbed fictional and perturbing theoretical material out of which the figure of the posthuman is woven.

This proposition is predominantly realised through what I term, after Giorgio Agamben, a series of paradigmatic operations; conjoining fabulated and critical elements into a hybrid ensemble. The resulting fiction-theory articulates discourse on and through digital media, new materialism, postcolonialism, feminism, and Queer theory, The Anthropocene, and biopolitics, as well as generating new insights into the fictions through which it operates. Across these, I work from the basis of R.L. Rutsky’s claim that posthumanism is ‘a kind of permanent cultural revolution, a performative process that continually re-conceptualizes, or changes, itself.’

The combination of the thesis and my practice position critical posthumanism as a hybrid ‘other’, my claim being that only through representing the human as and through an ongoing process (ontogenesis rather than ontology) can posthumanism re-conceptualise the ‘norms’ deeply embedded within the fields it confronts. I maintain that, although the results of this mutation are a consequence of error, those errors are necessarily distinct from humanist conceptions of autonomy. My portfolio of art work also underscores the critical posthumanist practice my thesis argues for, wavering on the boundary line between a science fictional practice and practice-based research. In my artistic practice I devise and create collaborative platforms that promote open and critical discourse on digital media theory and posthumanism. My work often exploits speculative and science fiction in search of a radical ‘outside’ to the human(ities). In March 2015 I released The 3D Additivist Manifesto (conceived and created with artist and activist Morehshin Allahyari) a call to push creative technologies beyond their breaking point, into the realm of the speculative, the provocative, and the weird. The resulting 3D Additivist Cookbook – composed of the work of over 100 artists, designers and theorists – was published in December 2016.

Website

machinemachine.net/portfolio

Supervisors

Edgar Schmitz
Michael Newman