We live in the epoch of the Anthropocene, a geological epoch that differs from all preceding epochs by being the first in which we as humans have a significant and far-reaching impact on nature. According to the recommendations given by the Working Group of the Anthropocene to the International Geological Congress in August 2016, this epoch started in the 1950s. It is thus recent — it replaces the epoch of the Holocene that existed for about 12,000 years — but already now the consequences are so vast that we have to consider the possibility that the ecological crisis we have created may lead to the end of the world. Nature cannot cope with today’s “Anthrophorism on steroids,” as phrased by Bruno Latour (2011). Maybe a more correct term for the epoch would be “The Anthrobscene” (Parikka 2014).
What does it mean to be a human in such an epoch? In 2015 and 2016, the Moderna Museet in Malmö created a two-part, video based exhibition with a number of artists exploring the conditions we live under. The first part was called “You and I in global wonderland”, the second “Knock, knock, is anyone home?” Artists taking part included Isaac Julien, Cao Fei, Harun Farocki, Ursula Mayer, and Ed Atkins.
In relation to the closing of the second part, Moderna Museet together with Malmö University’s experimental lab Medea organized a one-day symposium titled “The New Human.” It took place at Malmö University, with invited speakers Patricia MacCormack, Professor of Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge; Sverre Raffnsøe, Professor of Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School, and Susan Kozel, Professor of New Media at Malmö University. Temi Odumosu, art historian and post-doctoral researcher at Malmö University, functioned as moderator.
The whole symposium is available online. As a follow up and continuation of the symposium, speakers and participants of the conference were invited to take part in a publication. The result of that call you can find here:
In “The New Human(s): Colossal Humble Creatures Situated on the Earth,” Sverre Raffnsøe further develops the talk given by him at the symposium, outlining the contours of the epoch of the Anthropocene as well as discussing the challenges this epoch presents for the arts.
Similarly, in “The Archival Body: Re-enactments, affective doubling and surrogacy,” Susan Kozel explores the relationships between the body, memory practices, and materiality.
Three additional pieces, based on the symposium but not presented there, have been included:
Martin Farran-Lee, Adjunct Professor in Graphic Design at Malmö University, contributes with his six-image series “Metal Memos.”
Niclas N. Hundahl, MA in Modern Culture and Cultural Communication from University of Copenhagen, is the author of “Can the driverless car be ethically programmed? Only if the engineers team up with the philosophers.”
Viktoria Kalonaityte, Senior Lecturer in Organization Studies at Linnaeus University, takes part with the poem “Corpus Delicti: A Poetic Provocation of the Posthuman.”
Finally, here are two brief contributions to the topic of this publication—from media artist and researcher Rosemary Lee and artistic researcher Madeleine Tunbjer:
“The new human is a being populated by innumerable others. Vivisection appears unsuitable for charting the boundaries of the new human, its edges indistinguishable from the multitudes dwelling in each ‘I’. Flora and fauna gestate in a landscape of folded skin, but rather than an infestation, this swarm renders the barren sack habitable. Its alterity is not novel, it is recognition of its inherent otherness which defines this beast from its predecessors.”
— Rosemary Lee
About the author
Bo Reimer is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Malmö University, and is the Director of Medea, Malmö University’s experimental lab on collaborative media, design, and public engagement.
Latour, Bruno. 2011. Waiting for Gaia. Composing the common world through arts and politics. A lecture at the French Institute for the launching of SPEAP in London, November 2011. London. (Available at bruno-latour.fr, accessed October 12, 2016).
Parikka, Jussi. 2104. The Anthrobscene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.