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Posthumanism in the Works of Patricia Piccinini, Matthew Barney and Charles Avery

Chkhaidze, I; (2015) Posthumanism in the Works of Patricia Piccinini, Matthew Barney and Charles Avery. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis conceptualises instances of posthumanism in contemporary art. As an interdisciplinary critique in the humanities and social sciences, posthumanism is set against the anthropocentric discourse of humanism and its speciesist structures that reproduce the normative human subject through the dichotomy of humanity/animality. The analysis focuses on Patricia Piccinini's video work The Gathering, Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle and Charles Avery's ongoing multimedia project The Islanders. The otherwise diverse works of these three artists similarly combine media such as film, sculpture, drawing and photography to generate complex fictional universes inhabited by various animal or animal-human hybrids, alongside morphs, blobs, machine-organisms and amalgams of plant and inorganic matter, so as to negotiate a space of continuity and rupture between human and animal, animate and inanimate, living and dead, natural and artificial. While examining how posthumanism plays out in the above-mentioned artistic projects and discussing its implications for the wider culture, I argue that these works engage with the destabilisation of anthropocentrism, the reconsideration of ethics based on species membership, and more generally interrogate animal-human distinctions. These themes are explored in relation to Cary Wolfe's theorisation of posthumanism and anti-speciesism, Giorgio Agamben's writing on potentiality and human-nonhuman relations, Niklas Luhmann's notions (following Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela) of autopoiesis, the "blind spot" and form-medium distinctions, and Jacques Derrida's rethinking, under the pressing "question of the animal", of humanist ethical postulates based on ability and power.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Posthumanism in the Works of Patricia Piccinini, Matthew Barney and Charles Avery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1468812
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