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Artforum: Braving the elements

By Ben Kafka
Artforum

A Geology of Media by Jussi ParikkaIF YOU TRULY BELIEVE in “nonhuman agency,” then I know a bridge that wants to sell itself to you. The idea seems to be everywhere these days: in books, articles, essays, blog posts, wall text. It’s as if theorists, with the best of intentions (and no small amount of grandiosity), having “given” agency to workers, then women, then the colonized, then racial and ethnic minorities, then homosexuals, then cyborgs, finally decided that agency was something they might as well keep giving away to anything that moves—plus lots of things that don’t. As Andrew Cole put it in his excellent critique of the philosophical foundations of this mentality in the summer issue of this magazine, “You, a speck of flea shit, an electric chair, and a solar flare are all equal objects.” This almost sounds like a neat idea, until you pause to consider its ethical implications. “You” may indeed get a kick out of comparing yourself to a speck of flea shit or a solar flare. But substitute “you” for pretty much anyone else on the planet and you begin to see how dehumanizing “posthumanism” can be.

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