“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, December 28, 2012

What Does Hyperobjects Say?

As I'm filling out my questionnaire, might as well share it here.

The book is divided into two parts: (1) What are hyperobjects? and (2) What do they mean for humans?

The introduction argues that hyperobjects have activated a philosophical “earthquake” that compels us to refashion what we mean by a thing in the first place (ontology).

In five long sections, part (1) argues that hyperobjects have five properties.

Hyperobjects are viscous: they stick to us and penetrate us, thus abolishing concepts of distance and norms concerning meaning and propriety (metalanguage).

Hyperobjects are nonlocal: they do not manifest at a specific time and place but rather are stretched out in such a way as to challenge the idea that a thing must occupy a specific place and time.

Hyperobjects have a temporality so different from current human ones that they force us to drop the idea of time as a neutral container. Instead, hyperobjects “emit” time just like planets (Einstein).

Hyperobjects occupy high dimensional phase spaces that are unavailable to direct human perception. Computational prosthetics are required even to think them (mapping global warming requires petaflops of computing speed, for instance).

Hyperobjects exist “interobjectively,” which is to say that they consist, of, yet are not reducible to, interactions between a large number of entities.

In three long sections, part (2) argues that hyperobjects have three major implications for humans:

“The end of the world” as a meaningful horizon against which (human) events take shape has already occurred.

Instead of inhabiting a world, we find ourselves on the insides of a number of hyperobjects. This fact reduces all human styles of engagement to forms of hypocrisy, thus ending the reign of cynicism (otherwise known as modernity).

Culture has entered an age of asymmetry in which the nonhuman matches human cognition equally, but not in a neat Goldilocks way. Rather, humans are sandwiched between two giant beings that increase one another in a feedback loop: (human) reason and hyperobjects. Some contemporary art is already showing signs of this paradox.

1 comment:

Andrew Varano said...

This is really interesting. Can you point to any contemporary art work in particular that exemplifies what you're talking about in the third consequence?