Art and Posthumanism
Essays, Encounters, Conversations
University of Minnesota Press, 2022
How do contemporary art and theory contemplate the problem of the “bio” of biopolitics and bioart? How do they understand the question of “life” that binds human and nonhuman worlds in their shared travail? In Art and Posthumanism, Cary Wolfe argues for the reconceptualization of nature in art and theory to turn the idea of the relationship between the human and the planet upside down.
Wolfe explores a wide range of contemporary artworks—from Sue Coe’s illustrations of animals in factory farms and Eduardo Kac’s bioart to the famous performance pieces of Joseph Beuys and the video installations of Eija-Liisa Ahtila, among others—examining how posthumanist theory can illuminate, and be illuminated by, artists’ engagement with the more-than-human world. Looking at biological and social systems, the question of the animal, and biopolitics, Art and Posthumanism explores how contemporary art rivets our attention on the empirically thick, emotionally charged questions of “life” and the “living” amid ecological catastrophe.
One of the foremost theorists of posthumanism, Wolfe pushes that philosophy out of the realm of the purely theoretical to show how a posthumanist engagement with particular works and their conceptual underpinnings helps develop more potent ethical and political commitments.