Living Topologies / Nonhuman Agencies
28 November 2015
The second day of the symposium "LIMITS OF THE HUMAN". "THE HUMAN CONDITION" project.
Moderator: Dmitry Bulatov
12:00 – 12:15
12:15 – 12:45
Who Lives? On Beyond Living to the Noösphere
Richard Doyle (USA)
In 1943, Erwin Schrödinger asked a simple ques- tion, "What is Life?", which helped catalyzing the emergence of biophysics and molecular biolo- gy. However, it does surprise that while technol- ogies to manipulate living systems have grown in number and proliferated, Schrodinger's question still remains ... a question. Notwithstanding the insights, mishaps, and lacunae of diverse at- tempts to answer Schrödinger's question with the help of disciplines such as thermodynamics, evo- lutionary biology, astrobiology and bioethics, a new question arises: Who theorizes life? The in- crease of large-scale ecosystemic needs to model life will lead us towards conceptual experiments with the noösphere (Vernadksy, Le Roy, Teilhard De Chardin). Its attention on the biosphere in or- der to theorize its emergence proves the exis- tence of feedback between consciousness and evolution – e.g. GMO, bioart, climate change. Whatever life is, it can be altered through the change of attention – but whose?
12:45 – 13:15
Sociology of Non-Living Life: What Did the Theory of Assemblage Teach Us?
Victor Vakhshtain (Russia)
Today, the theory of assemblage represents com- plex of philosophical, sociological, anthropologi- cal concepts and metaphors, linked together nei- ther by common semantics, nor by logic of composition. Despite its being initiated by inter- pretations of post-modern world hybridism phe- nomena – by a new techno-physical 'construc- tions' genesis and the de-bordering of human / un-human – this theory failed to lead to the creation of a common descriptional language. How- ever, the very idea of assemblage ingrained in the analysis of technology, urban studies and ob- ject-oriented philosophy, has consistently expanded the range of available objects of cogni- tion. The price for this expansion was the loss of the initial epistemic intentions of the 'ontological turn' in philosophy and the 'turn to materialism' in sociology. Such an ambiguity is quite accept- able in philosophy, which is motivated by the de- sire for 'wild and unbridled concepts, but it is rather problematic for sociology, where the value of a concept is much higher. Can we today bring back clarity to the theory of assemblage and use it for describing the ontological shift: in sociology of weapons, sociology of the city, sociology of technology? Can it still explain these new intu- itions in the manifestation of "non-living" life, as it was intended in the beginning?
13:15 – 14:00
Assembly Area: Membranes, Agents, Relics
Nina Sosna (Russia)
Politics does not inherently deal with things as they should be. It deals with the given, with the actual. One area of recent contemporary dis- course examines the element of existence, better called substance, that 'feels, desires and remem- bers'. Combining natural and human sciences with art does not thematize any levels, hierar- chies, emanations or voids. There is no mediation on the part of any essence: coupling and decou- pling of the elements appears to be the common explicative principle. The world appears indefinite and in a flux. On the one hand, it allows to see its constitutive nature (as an indeterminate and ac- cidentally defining existence), on the other hand, it does not allow to demarcate and materialize the act of differentiation. There are no surfaces, there are membranes. There are no objects, there are interfaces. There are no inclinations, there are vectors. Given that it is inevitably created by different tensions and collisions, how does the physicality of this description encourage the junc- tion of discontinuity?
15:30 – 16:00
The Evolving Human Inheritance. From Symbols to Life
Pier Luigi Capucci (Italy)
Humans evolved the symbolic ability, a complex way to communicate through words, writings, im- ages, sounds, both in direct and in mediated ways, synchronously and asynchronously, pres- ently and remotely. But the symbolic ability is al- so a powerful "technology", the main reason be- hind the evolution of the human species. It is at the basis of our attitude to invent technologies and create tools, machines, and even new future life forms. Born from the symbolic ability, scienc- es and technologies deeply influenced the human life. In ancient Greece the average lifespan was 30 years, in the Roman era it was about the same, and by the end of the XIX Century it reached 40 years. Today, in roughly one century, in the so called "technological world", the lifes- pan expectation has doubled. Humans also devel- oped a wide range of artefacts, machines, entities that are quickly becoming more and more power- ful, complex, autonomous, and independent. They could be defined to a certain extent as "liv- ing entities", expanding the idea of life and of life forms. All this processes seem pushing forward the human biological, cultural, technical bound- aries. How do they happen? Where are technolo- gies based on? Can these processes give any glimpses on a possible evolution?

16:00 – 16:30
Convulsions of a Symbolic Machine
Wladimir Velminski (Switzerland / Germany)
Two different papers will be collated in this talk: the Influencing Machine (1919) by Victor Tausk, an Austrian psychoanalyst, and Hypnosis (2006) from Russian artist and writer Pavel Pepperstein. Keeping the conflicting message of these works in mind, I would like to go through the structures of mediality, which are difficult to define. These symbol-forming processes and practices deter- mine scenarios of hyper-reality, a second simu- lated reality. This reality appears in a disposition of an interior space – in other words, the media environment "on the edge of chaos" that affects both individual and public needs, desires and per- ceptions.
16:30 – 17:00
Cat's Criticism: Animal politics and Artificial Intelligence.
Michael Kurtov (Russia)
Animal images are widespread in current media: from Walt Disney's animated zoophilia to pet pictures on Instagram. We can see that interest for the life form, recently considered to be a lifeless mechanism, deepens. Isn't this expansion circumstantial evidence of the fact that animal and technological forms of life converge? And in a narrow sense, doesn't the current state of the 'rational machines' of evolution correspond to current state of animals? At the same time animals are still steeped in myths: whether we speak about animal welfare or vice versa about their exploitation in the food or media industry, the difference between human and animal still remains crude. Only through clarifying artificial intelligence's methods and understanding of sense, and the meaning of fauna for the human, we can solve the problem.
18:00 – 18:30
Unhuman as a Resource
Dmitry Bulatov (Russia)
The question that dominates current discussions about science and latest technologies is the question of their ability to have a transforming effect on every field of modern life and on human beings. It is obvious that the real quality and novelty of today's technological breakthrough does not come down to the appearance of new practices related to academic research. The bottom line is that these intercommunicating practices generate new system integrity, new spaces of human being. It is hardly possible to consider this subject with- out taking into account the experience of con- temporary technological art, which does not con- firm the versions of an unhumanized reality temporary technological art, which does not con- firm the versions of an unhumanized reality unfolding before our eyes, and creates the boundary lines of their applicability, offering to the viewer an even more complicated combination of rules.
18:30 – 19:00
Challenging Anthropocentrism in the Epistemological Turn: Microperformativity, Molecular Theatre, Plantamorphisations and Big Bacteria
Jens Hauser (Denmark)
Today's artistic practices that materially involve biotechnologies aim at increasing awareness for the invisibility of the microscopic and the incomprehensibility of the macroscopic, thus participating in alternative knowledge production within what can be called an epistemological turn. Such techno-sciences inspired art questions, philosophically and politically, the human scale as crucial reference point. By shifting the focus from actions of a mesoscopic human body to functions of microscopic bodies, notions of microperformativity and molecular theatre are played against one other; staged diegetic time is being contrasted with real performative time of alternative agencies, even unfolding as plantamorphizations. And beyond gene or cell fragments as ontologized identity proxies, microorganisms increasingly enter the focus of artistic interest between microbiome research and synthetic biology – Big Bacteria further challenge the mesoscopic tradition of our phenomenological considerations.
19:30 – 20:00
Agents of an Artificial Life Report…
Dmitry Galkin (Russia)
Interdisciplinary research and investigations in the field of artificial life during the1990-2000s outlined the challenges of the transition from digital culture to the culture of techno-biological hybrids. The question of potential life in technological substratum highlighted the insufficiency of the idea of nature and biological life. It encouraged new critical art investigations and interventions at the intersection of art, science and technology. The ontological theatre of non-human technological and human sense agents from different cultural discourses was brought into focus in these works.
Richard Doyle, Victor Vakhshtain, Nina Sosna
Pier Luigi Capucci, Wladimir Velminski, Michael Kurtov
Unhuman as a Resource
Jens Hauser, Dmitry Bulatov, Dmitry Galkin
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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