Baarle, Kristof van (Ghent University, Belgium)

The coming singularity of posthumanism

Posthumanist theorists since the late eighties have tried to redefine man in this late capitalist age of proliferation of technological tools, objects and networks. Their work could be seen as a response to the calls of post-structuralist thinkers Ihab Hassan (1977) and Michel Foucault, of which the latter stated that “L’homme est une invention dont l’archéologie de notre pensée montre aisément la date récente. Et peut-être la fin prochaine.” (1966: 398). However, the most prominent voices in posthuman theory today, such as Katherine N. Hayles (1999), Cary Wolfe (2010) or Donna Haraway (1991), have not succeeded in creating a new vision on man that abandons the notions of the subject and the individual as key elements of man. Anthony Miccoli referred to Heidegger when he proclaimed that most posthuman theory remains on the instrumental level when it comes to dealing with technology (2009).  In this lecture I will search for a way to bring posthuman theory and critical philosophy together in the development of a conception of the human without subject, which has left his individuality behind and has thus become truly post-human. I will focus on the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben and his notion of the whatever singularity (2007) and on the concept of the ‘Bloom’ as it was worked out by the Invisible Collective in the French journal Tiqqun (1999-2001). The work of Belgian theatre maker Kris Verdonck provides insights in how this singularity might look like. Verdonck’s performances equalize humans and objects and search to reformulate humanity and explore time, space, action and being in a subjectless state. The performer is never independent, but always a consequence of the situation he or she is in. I suggest a figure without subject, informed by philosophy and performance, by posthumanism, Agamben, Tiqqun and Verdonck, as both a dystopian and utopian configuration in a messianic constellation.

Kristof van Baarle (°1989) holds MA degrees in Art Science (Ghent University) and Theatre Studies (University of Antwerp) and since October 2013 he is a research scholar (promotor: Christel Stalpaert) at Ghent University with a Ph. D. fellowship of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). His research concerns the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, the work of Belgian artist Kris Verdonck and the relation between technology and the human in a philosophical posthumanist constellation. He has published in Performance Research and his MA thesis will be published in the series AGENT-New Theses in Performance Research. Kristof also works as a dramaturge for Kris Verdonck – A Two Dogs Company.

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