- Levi Bryant
"Our brain is not the seat of a neuronal cinema that reproduces the world: rather our perceptions are inscribed on the surface of things, as images amongst images.”
- Bernhard Cache
The Metaphysics of Absence
We have never been human(ist)! We are embedded/entangled actants in a world of objects, participating in and resistant to its affective relations with us, while other objects evade us completely withdrawing into the tangled skein of their own mysterious vacuums(Harman). Actants in a endless duel between divergent fault-lines of negotiation and resolution, we suffer the world as network or machinic mesh, a zone in which all the real objects conceal themselves from the greedy touch of alchemy, a place in which we encounter the pressuring force of an excess within relation itself. Subverting the centrality of the human(ist) and of all anthropocentric modes of knowing and experiencing the world by displacing the centrality of its metonymic stand-in, human (and humanist) perception we ride the waves of a rhizomatic reconfiguration of the human and the real in our time. Do not call it a tranhumanist vision, a jump into a cyborgian fantasy of an after life downloaded into robotic immortality, nor a human-machine merger in which the human vanishes beyond recall, instead this is the posthumanist recognition and reframing of the human not in terms of a granting to the other what we think ourselves to be, but by a radical reconfiguration of how we even think of ourselves in the first place. As Cary Wolfe in his What is Posthumanism? informs us, the ability to comprehend a "new reality" in which human beings occupy a universe "populated by... nonhuman subjects" requires a posthumanism which entails "an increase in the vigilance, responsibility, and humility that accompanies living in a world so newly, and differently, inhabited" (47). I would agree with the statement above except I would replace nonhuman subjects with nonhuman objects - even that most human(ist) word of all, subject, has too much of the smell of the anthropos in it for my taste.
As an animal among other animals, as organic machines concocted out of the machinic assemblage of the inorganic and organic world we are all connected to the greater machines that surround us, and we translate this world of objects for the benefit of that real that exists in the hidden depths of our own machinic mystery. As Graham Harman tells us our "bodily organs are nothing but translation machines, transforming various energies from the outer world into terms that we can grasp or fail to grasp, allowing objects to show their faces in new and more compelling ways than before. Even when our digestive system translates bread into fuel and our nerves reduce pin-pricks to pain, this is not sheer appropriation or destruction, but rather a way of leveraging all that is strong in these objects by way of their most vulnerable points. Somewhat paradoxically, to appropriate something is also to pay tribute to it-precisely by acknowledging that its frailty is a door through which we hope to enter and participate in its mysteries..." (GM: 245).
Ontographers of the real we translate those dynamic tensions between differing kinds of objects, divining in their depths a strange force hidden away beyond our access, yet always-already in touch with us indirectly through the medley of its sensual allure. Like pagan priests or shamans of of some arcane world, we find ourselves rising up the tree of being or climbing down into its darkening roots below the earth, or sliding along the surface texture of its seemingly bubbling face where we begin that dance of the quadruple enfoldment of objects, stopping here and there letting the asymmetry of an object touch us with its sensual notes like a symphony played by an invisible maestro, one that is absent while present. Like infants reaching out toward those fuzzy play things that surround it, tentatively skimming their sensual surface, then withdrawing or escaping from their dangerous power of allurement into the folds of her own safe vacuum; she watches, she waits... listening to the palpitating notes on the wind... then less fearful and hesitant, after a thorough study of the colorful exterior of the those affective appurtenances unfolding through the window of reality before her, she stirs out of her timid withdraweness, buffering herself - then she slowly caresses the colorful globules of plasticity dancing in the sun like angels on a string of light, nudging against their smooth or rough surfaces, feeling the palpable pressure of something pushing back against her, a strange relation emerging out of the inner depths of those objects core, creating a new object one made of her and the sensual hands surrounding her in their embrace; this hidden force touching her indirectly through its sensual fingers awakens within her that ultimate strangeness of all relation: the shock of the absolute real awakening, unfolding, curling out of its inner core and touching her with its sensual hands is a terror even angels may fear to tread; yet, this infant, in jubilant delight, begins to cuddle up to this object unafraid, embracing its sensual hands, groping its body, stroking its face, tasting its plastic magic like a new born god who has for the first time discovered the art of the real: the creation of an object.
What this infant has explored is the concreteness of objects. As Harman tells us: "The concreteness of objects (as already seen in Aristotle's primary substance) refers to something so real that no description or definition ever does it justice. Whatever it might be that humans do, it is not abstraction, but rather an exposure of their surfaces to an increasing variety of concrete objects - and concrete objects, like classical substances, are what always elude the senses. ... An animal organism is the first great translation-machine, rendering the motleyest crew of objects into a single mother-tongue: the language of the soul, which Aristotle regarded as the ultimate organ of the senses. The tendency of any soul is to assemble a single holistic mass in which the sensual parts of objects mix together and unify. But this sensual tendency is countered from the start by the inverse movement of intelligence, which tends toward antiholism, chopping apart incarnate elements and leaving us with a forest of ghosts-phantom objects that never show themselves. If sensation is the principle of unity, intelligence aims to split the world into districts, into isolated objects flickering independently from beyond. And like every exercise of intelligence, philosophy is less a creation of concepts than a creation of objects" (GM: 248).
1. Wolfe, Cary. What is Posthumanism? Posthumanities series, ed. Cary Wolfe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.