When I began working on ‘No grace I find’ my initial aim was to investigate the concept of the post-human future and one specific aspect of its multiple shapes and identities.
I had been considering the work of Donna Haraway and the idea of multispecies storytelling, which I understood as the development of an intellectual and creative space in which many non-human entities would be able to find ways to express themselves, above the dominant human sounds of the Anthropocene.
Looking at Donna Haraway's work I found her story ‘Staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene’ (Haraway,2016) triggered ideas about shifting the narrative perspective in my own artifact. This story is categorised as speculative fiction, which was also relevant to my practice.
Multispecies storytelling was discussed in depth at a conference chaired by Professor Jorgen Bruhn, at which another aspect, intermedial practice, was introduced. The concept of different forms meeting at a boundary informs my own work.
In this artifact, I am attempting to establish a non-verbal investigation of the boundaries between a post-human entity and the remnants of human culture in that post-human world. I use a specific cultural artifact, a book, because a book subverts the view that the printed word will not survive the onset of digital communication.
I also wanted to explore what that world might look like. Many envision a dystopian future where the virtual landscape will dominate, AI having swept away everything human. In thinking about the meaning of post-humanism I found the work of philosopher and horror fiction writer Nick Land very apt. He explores possible futures where AI takes over from humans and suggests they should embrace this end. I felt this fed into my own ideas about how a post-human entity might view itself as all-knowing.
In this world, there would be no need for the spoken word, which is represented in my artifact by the abstracted conversation that forms its bedrock. Underlying this is the related idea that the post-human world could find itself in great need of the natural world, which those last humans will have destroyed. Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘In a Wood’ (which could be read as a yearning for the natural world but is also a yearning for humanity) is being studied by the entity in a bid to learn how to create a tree.
This is an attempt to visualise the way in which the post-human entity might build a construct of understanding to bridge the enormous gap between where it stands now and the world it yearns for, by reaching back into the past to salvage some meaning from the synthetic world now in place. The likelihood of success is minimal.
By chance, my thoughts about this work have been overtaken by the onset of the pandemic and the lockdown. One consequence of this upheaval is the rapid growth of our own yearning for the past. In making this artifact, I have begun to understand why even a post-human entity might experience that very human emotion.
Image Galley of Final Artifact
Disclaimer - Due to the limitations of quarantine I was unable to completely fulfil my idea and was unable to obtain some building materials and had to work with what I had at home. In place of the wires I had imagined using LEDs attached to tubing. In the video below I have shown the processes I had to undertake in order to create the artifact.
Bruhn, J., 2019. Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices. Linnaeus University. URL https://lnu.se/en/meet-linnaeus-university/conferences/previous-conferences/multispecies-storytelling/ (accessed 5.2.20)
Jorgen Bruhn, professor at Linnaeus University held a conference that set out to explore the question of “how to nurture liveable futures for us while also asking who and what might be included in this us.”
Holloway-Attaway, L., Persson, L., Kristensen, L., n.d. A Researching Bastard: Perceiving non-human subjectivity: between theory and practice.
This panel was a part of the multispecies storytelling in intermedial practices conference, Holloway-Attaway, Persson and Kristensen were investigating ways of conceptualizing multispecies storytelling.
Land, N., Mackay, R., Brassier, R., 2012. Fanged Noumena: collected writings 1987-2007, 2nd ed. ed. Urbanomic ; Sequence Press, Falmouth : New York, NY.
Haraway, D.J., 2016. Staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene, Experimental futures Technological lives, scientific arts, anthropological voices. Duke University Press, Durham London.
Donna Haraway's staying with the trouble investigates the historical and political interactions between pigeon and human. Drawing studies from science, multispecies storytelling, ecological and biology she sets out to ask how situated companion species engage each other in meaningful material.
Land, N., n.d. Outside in - Involvements with reality. URL http://www.xenosystems.net (accessed 5.2.20)