by craigepplin

This blog is a companion site to my current book project, titled Nonhuman Collectives: Mediations of Contemporary Mexican Aesthetics.

The premise is simple: we are not human, and we have never been human. This conviction rests on a historical narrative in which salient present-day phenomena force us to acknowledge the nonhuman core of human existence. That is, nonhumanity has always been constitutive of humanity, and current events force us to acknowledge this cold fact. The culprits of this realization are varied: ecological crises, biogenetic engineering, sophisticated pharmaceutical concoctions, intelligent war machines, and an expanding universe of everyday digital prostheses. All of these phenomena remind us of humanity’s imbrication in the nonhuman universe.

Given this social horizon, it is incumbent on us to forge new models of critique. A nonhuman mode of critique centers on media. Mediation—understood as the act of refracting and transforming the environment—is the trait common to all nonhumanity, from broad ecological forces to humans as traditionally conceived. As such, a nonhuman critique is based on the mediations effected by aesthetic actors working in concert with the environment. Building on this assumption, Nonhuman Collectives focuses on four interfaces: bodies, books, places, and screens.

These interfaces correspond to five aesthetic actors working in contemporary Mexico City: visual artists Teresa Margolles and Santiago Sierra (bodies), novelist Mario Bellatin (books), filmmaker Carlos Reygadas (places), and visual artist Fernando Llanos (screens). The corpus crystallizes around the conviction that these aesthetic actors take the nonhuman social horizon as a point of departure for their interventions, engaging with the media through which the work of art emerges as such. The question they seek to answer is what sort of collectives can be imagined and enacted in a world of nonhumans. Through their engagement with their own aesthetic media, they themselves become genuine theorists of nonhuman existence.