Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Post humans/Electric Sheep

by Josee Vesely

02 Jul 2011

Whilst reading NW in the supermarket I see that Lady Gaga is getting cosmetic lumps inserted in her shoulders. It figures, she is kinda a post-human wannabe. So was ORLAN, perhaps Matthew Barney. Stelarc seems pretty authentic. Michael Jackson remains the golden boy. Perhaps the concept is not so dated.

In discussing ‘post-human’ bodies theorists often use numerous examples to demonstrate the increasingly ‘fluid’ borders and slippage in contemporary notions of the body. Everything from plastic surgery, medical intervention, prosthesis, cyborg culture, social media, virtual reality, global technology, hybridity and cloning is cited and included in the meta-narrative of the post-human. The post-human does not seem to be able to exist in this narrative without the (now abandoned) post-modern.

If modernism is defined by the assertion of self, and the postmodern the disintergration of this, then the supposedly current post-human period is its reconstruction. Although in this proliferation of ‘post-isms’ there seems “the necessary and regrettable failure to imagine what’s next.”[1]

That’s probably okay because we’re sort of in it now (we’re post-post). It’s becoming clear that a ‘post-human’ experience is more reliant on discourse and some sort of historical embodiment than these previously imagined, more visceral encounters.

It is from this site, the ‘post-post’, that empirical meaning becomes unfixed, identities tenuous and history imploded and destabilised. This idea can, and has been applied to everything from linear history, global economics, corporate branding and advertising, queer culture, gender and sexuality, fashion, AIDS, hip hop, pop icons such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna and some bad U2 stadium concerts, to the absolute and swift advancement of the internet and information technology. On this last point it is telling that Foucault’s seemingly cryptic description of the exteriorised brain and sci-fi writing on cyborg culture has been banally and ubiquitously realised with the iPhone.

Maybe the ‘post-human’ body does not allude to sexy androids (which is sort of unfortunate) and other fantastical diversions, but to a shared interface and often disembodied site of historical crises, where current discourses of ‘human’ are being rethought. It suggests rupture, anarchy and a strange horizon.


[1] Halberstam, Judith and Ira Livingston Posthuman Bodies. Indianapolis and Bloomington: Indiana University, 1995.