Friday, March 04, 2016


Is this a Posthuman? Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016

Like my previous post and painting Vascular System for Posthumansthis new painting is inspired by the reading I am undertaking for my university higher degree research studies. These studies are not focused on posthumanism, but they certainly intersect with the possibility of posthuman futures. 


So, let's ask some questions. Will we humans become posthuman by some kind of augmentation or will we assist in the creation of posthuman entities, like we create cars, ships, needles and coffee cups? If it is the latter will these entities be 'inscribed' with access to descriptions of humanity's mode of being in order to ensure some kind of 'human' future history? Is the term posthuman actually a helpful one? If there is no 'human' component, except the possibility of the entity being able to access programmed descriptions of being human, maybe it is a bit misleading? I mean, when we humans access information about stones, stars, history in the library or online [or wherever] we don't 'become' the stone, the star nor the history. So, if a posthuman has no human-ness maybe the 'human' part of 'posthuman' lulls us into thinking we humans actually have a future. Even if the term was 'posthumanlife' or 'postlife' maybe we'd think differently about how we negotiate the prospect of posthuman futures? 

However, if we are augmented and enhanced in ways that retain some kind of human-ness, even if it is only our own individual memories which include our cultural, environmental, historical and familial connections, then the 'human' with the prefix 'post' is possibly more appropriate. This kind of downloading could be input into an 'embodied' being or be entered into a non-bodied system. Do we need a body to be 'human' or retain human-ness? If the entity is an embodied one and has some retention of human-ness what physical attributes could be retained...fingernails? But, maybe we can develop ways to develop extremophile capacities that enable us to retain bodies of organic matter, but super-charged and enhanced organic matter? The other alternative is that there are no 'bodies' just downloaded minds. So if we download human minds and there is no body for the mind to be embedded into, then it is fascinating to think that being human in the so-called posthuman future could be just about mind. 

It is such fun thinking about various posthuman scenarios. I suggest that posthuman or posthumanlife modes of being are inevitable. When you think about it, even if we are completely annihilated it's axiomatic that it would trigger the posthuman. After all, the 'post' prefix does not mean that something has to replace the human. There might be just nothing, no intelligent beings. The thing that humans find sad, maddening, depressing is that without an intelligent consciousness the nothingness could not be observed. 

Is this a Posthuman?

As with Vascular System for Posthumans? I have painted an x-ray-like or scanned 'body'. The 'head' is a tree...yes my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life. The tree signifies a few things about life, repeating patterns, possibility. The tree is also represented in the leg-like appendages, taking on a root-like appearance. The trees, to me, seem to signify a process of transformation. However, exactly what kind of transformation is not necessarily apparent. It could be a transformation into a merged human and machine, which is represented by the binary code 'instructing' the word Human. Or, the tree could represent a 'good bye' to humans...a signal that humanity's time to return to the stars as star dust is near. This would mean that a posthuman future is one where there is nothing intelligent or conscious left. Although...there is the tantalising possibility of intelligent aliens who may, for one reason or another, detect that some kind of other intelligent entity once existed.

Looking at the painting, I am very happy with how the 'posthuman's' heart also takes on a kind of head-like appearance. Heart/head/mind connections are important ones to think about. No more so than NOW. By asking questions and thinking about human futures, we may be able to ensure that whatever future occurs, it is the best of many possible outcomes.

Other recent Posthuman Paintings


I was interviewed on Radio Adelaide a day after speaking on a four person panel 'Space and Popular Culture'. The event was hosted by the Southern hemisphere Space Studies program, run by the International Space University [Strasbourge] and teh University of South Australia.  You can listen to it HERE


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