Hanover Talk: Biomorphic Horror

Philosophical posthumanisms oppose anthropocentrism – the presumption that reality must be thought about from a human perspective. But what remains of embodiment in post-anthropocentric thought? Should it retain a place for the body or the aesthetic as distinctive ways of encountering reality? If not, how can it adequately describe of our ‘posthuman predicament’ as bodies subject to technological indetermination or mediation.

I will argue that there is a method of abstraction that circumvents anthropomorphism. Following related usages of Alain Badiou and Ray Brassier, I refer to this as ‘unbinding’. However, the portals of an unbound posthumanism swing too wide for an ontology of agents or of affective life. It follows that an anthropologically unbound posthumanism must explore alternative treatments of embodiment. Here, I will consider a subtractive schema for a body whose coherence and life are doubtful. Instead of a ‘vital posthumanism’ of affective bodies, I want to consider one of biomorphic abstraction.

I borrow this term from J G Ballard’s experimental novel, The Atrocity Exhibition – a diorama of the mid-20th Century mediascape, combining images of assassination, war and psychosexual experimentation. Ballard’s biomorph is a placeholder for a humanity whose status as living is in doubt. The biomorph thus offers a perverse solution to the imposed conceptual poverty of posthumanism.

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