The Uncertain Marriage of Posthumanism and Sound Art
Post-humanism as a philosophy has many heterogeneous factions: the cybernetic post-humanists are preoccupied with the human being fused with an intelligent machine. Critical post-humanists rail against the hollowness of the claims of ‘universalism’ underlying Western European/Enlightenment philosophy, rejecting anthropocentrism. Radical eliminative post-humanists envision a world where existing modes of human life are no longer possible. Transhumanists are ridden simultaneously with a Silicon Valley techno-fetishistic infatuation with how to extend human life through capital-intensive technology (bordering on soft eugenics), coupled with a retrograde humanism viewing humans as omnipotent. Post-humanism poses a challenge to sound art and sound studies, because sound by its very definition is anthropocentric and will not readily mesh with theories of the disintegration of the human subject. As Jonathan Sterne discusses, sound has been ridden with transhistorical essentialist idealizations of hearing as ‘pure interiority’, rendering it obstinately grounded in romantic notions of the ‘human’. I propose that instead of going into the future, we go to the past, where we find a blueprint of the ‘post-humanist listener’. Johannes Müller’s 1856 theory on listening eradicated distinctions between internal and external sensations. Antithetical to ‘humanist’ notions of listener-as-a-coherent-human-subject, Müller instead embraced the post-humanist assumption of ‘human as an arbitrary system to be assembled and disassembled’.
Andrea Liu is a New York/Berlin-based art critic and artist. She has been awarded artist residences at Atlantic Center for the Arts, Banff Centre, Art & Law Program, Centrale Fies Liveworks Performance Act Award, Ox-Bow/Art Institute of Chicago, and is a fellow at Centre for Experimental Museology. She gave talks at Centre for Postdigital Cultures (UK), Royal Central School of Drama and Speech (UK), Society for Artistic Research Conference (UK), Yale University Whitney Humanities Center, Sorbonne VALE (Voix Anglophones Littérature et Esthétique), CTM Festival (Transmediale Berlin), Geffen Museum (Los Angeles Printed Matter Artist Books Conference), NYU Performance Studies Conference, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. She received her undergrad education from Yale University and was curator of Counterhegemony: Art in a Social Context.
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