Category Archives: Theory

Marking Territory: Pollution as Appropriation in Serres’ Malfeasance

In Malfeasance: Appropriation through Pollution? French philosopher of science Michel Serres makes a provocative argument that links our seemingly unstoppable drive to pollute and befoul our environment to both an animal instinct to mark our territory and the economic imperative to amass property. Continue reading Marking Territory: Pollution as Appropriation in Serres’ Malfeasance


Numbers or Souls? Angelo Musco’s Ecotechnical Bodyscapes

Angelo Musco. Xylem.  2011.  Metallic C-Print mounted between Aluminum and Plexi-glass.  8'x20'.

“For some it’s the numbers,” Angelo Musco told TIME Lightbox in an interview last March. “For me, it’s the souls.”

Musco creates “Bodyscapes,” enormous images composed of thousands, even millions of naked bodies. What looks like a forest scene or a bird’s nest from a distance turns out to be, upon closer inspection, a mass of bodies stretched, reaching, bent, huddled, flying, swimming, curled, piled, entwined—but most of all, amassed, aggregated, collected, concentrated. The images are certainly beautiful, but it is a terrifying beauty. For Musco, the body is a site and a celebration of pain as well as joy. Continue reading Numbers or Souls? Angelo Musco’s Ecotechnical Bodyscapes


The only successful philosophies and religions are the ones that flatter us, whether in the name of progress or of hell. Damned or not, man experiences an absolute need to be at the heart of everything. It is, in fact, solely for this reason that he is man, that he has become man. And if some day he no longer feels this need, he must give way to some other animal prouder, madder than himself. (Cioran 34)

It is written in the Zohar: “When man appeared, thereupon appeared the flowers.” I suspect they were there long before him, and that his advent plunged them all into a stupefaction from which they have not recovered. (Cioran 45)

Nature’s great mistake was to have been unable to confine herself to one “kingdom”: juxtaposed with the vegetable, everything else seems inopportune, out of place. The sun should have sulked at the appearance of the first insect, and gone out altogether with the advent of the chimpanzee. (Cioran 49)

Cioran, E.M. The Trouble with Being Born. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Arcade, 1976.

Grindhouse Posthumanism

I have been meaning to get this post out since I first saw Ben Popper’s article for The Verge, Cyborg America, about “basement body hackers,” way back at the beginning of August. A new teaching assignment at Humber College as well as an ongoing editing contract have kept me from posting for the past months, however.

I embed the video here, but I also encourage you to read the accompanying article.

I sent the link around to a number of my colleagues after covering issues of technoscience and ethics in our classes. One of them sent me a message back, saying that, while Popper’s article is certainly interesting, he takes the “cyborg” practices to be somewhat outdated here. He points out, correctly, that a lot of transhumanist discourse now envisions human enhancements at the genetic and nano levels. Continue reading Grindhouse Posthumanism

Art Is of the Animal

Art is of the animal. It comes, not from reason, recognition, intelligence, not from a uniquely human sensibility, or from any of man’s higher accomplishments, but from something excessive, unpredictable, lowly. What is most artistic in us is that which is the most bestial. Art comes from the excess, in the world, in objects, in living things, that enables them to be more than they are, to give more than themselves, their material properties and qualities, their possible uses, than is self-evident. Art is the consequence of that excess, that energy or force, that puts life at risk for the sake of intensification, for the sake of sensation itself—not simply for pleasure or for pleasure or for sexuality, as psychoanalysis suggests—but for what can be magnified, intensified, for what is more, through which creation, risk, innovation are undertaken for their own sake, for how and what they may intensify. . . . There is an involuted and oblique relation between the energies of sexual selection (rather than, as for Freud, sexual satisfaction or orgasmic release), the attraction to and possible attainment of sexual (though not necessarily copulative) partners—human and otherwise—and the forces and energies of artistic production and consumption. Art is of the animal to the extent that creation, the attainment of new goals not directly defined through the useful, is at its core. It will be my task to elaborate a genealogy of the visual and plastic arts that refuses to reduce art to the forces and effects of natural selection but links them instead to the excessive expenditures involved in sexual selection.

For Darwin himself . . . the living being is “artistic” to the extent that its body or products have within them something that attracts or entices not only members of the opposite sex but also members of the same sex and members of different species. For Darwin, this attraction is largely but not exclusively heterosexual, usually directed to members of the opposite sex, though it invariably entails some bodily intensification or magnification of sexually specific characteristics. Sexual differences are morphological or bodily differences, differences that can be discerned and used systematically to differentiate between one type of body and another. Sexual selection magnifies and highlights these morphological differences and transformations—those differences that attract or appeal are more likely to be selected and incorporated into successive generations, which are more likely to differ further and further from each other—that enhance the body’s sexual appeal. This calling to attention, this making of one’s own body into a spectacle, this highly elaborate display of attractors, involves intensification. Not only are organs on display engorged, intensified, puffed up, but the organs that perceive them—ears, eyes, nose—are also filled with intensity, resonating with colors, sounds, smells, shapes, rhythms.

Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 63-66.