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Keynote Abstracts



N. Katherine Hayles

Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious

Recent discoveries in neuroscience have confirmed the existence of nonconscious cognitive processes inaccessible to conscious introspection but nevertheless essential for consciousness to function; this lecture will argue that understanding the full extent of their power requires a radical rethinking of cognition from the ground up and a reconceptualization of how humans interact with nonhumans and with cognitive technologies in the contemporary developed world.  This framework also implies a new view of how, where, and by whom meaning-making practices occur, and consequently a new view of how aesthetic considerations evolve when humans are not the only ones who get to determine what counts as meaning. 

Stefan Lonrenz Sorgner

Posthuman Aesthetics as Affirmation of Non-Totalitarian Total Works of Art

Posthuman Aesthetics is characterized by the affirmation of non-totalitarian total works of art. These works challenge the aesthetic prohibition of total artistic structures by aesthetic theories such as Adorno’s. Posthuman art works do not imply new totalitarian structures, but they increase plurality. They neither stress their own superiority, nor do they claim a universal validity, but they merely represent a further offer. Adorno’s aesthetics demands art works which are dedicated to a permanently more intellectual audience. Posthuman art is inclusive without stopping to be innovative. Plurality gets promoted by including non-totalitarian total works of art in the spectrum of the contemporary art world. 

Patricia MacCormack

Ahuman Queerings: Art, Nature, Ethics

The nonhuman has tactical referents – animals which are not human and suffer because they aren’t so, but also the ahuman becomings of the human who wishes to repudiate the isomorphic power structures which facilitate all forms of oppression, from the teratologies of medieval and horror epistemes to the cosmic wonders of the cthulucene (Lovecraft’s, not Haraway’s). These occur through a rethinking of nature via the ecosophies of Serres, Guattari and the mucosal relations of Irigaray. The nonhuman both does and does not have an opposite. It is no longer animal to man, but it is stood apart from the ideational concept of the human. It is not opposite however, as to be so would forget or deny the atrocities and not be accountable for the actions perpetuated by systems which value the concept of the human over other life. So becoming nonhuman does not oppose the human – it is indeed the impetus. Unlike the posthuman which, in its most biotech chronocentric fetishistic way hyper-stylises humanist compulsions of immortality, mechanisation, manipulation and exhaustible knowledge, the nonhuman has had enough of humanist directions, and seeks multiple trajectories which acknowledge human life, whatever that means, is part of a constellation of lives to which it must be accountable, while also indulging in the jubilance of the unthought potentialities letting go of power for grace and love elicits. In a way, the nonhuman is the object queer could never speak, for queer does not define its objects, and the nonhuman does not know its desires. These terms are nonterms which lead to an affirmative end to the human – the ahumanism. This paper, by shifting from posthuman to ahuman theory, shows posthuman concerns as temporally ecosophical in that they have always connected notions of the limits of humanity (from nature and the sublime) with the unimaginable not as a future but an immanent ethical need. Thus the chronocentric version of posthumanism as improvement or incremental evolution is a redundant all too human impulse.