Tuesday, March 14, 2017


This reading assignment (1-68) includes: Intro: A Quake in Being, What Are Hyperobjects?, Viscosity, and Nonlocality.

FYI An easy way to pull quotes for course discussion is located here:

A list created to define Hyperobjects here Hyperobjects are... 
"Timothy Morton's Hyperobjects contains a multitude of declarative, metaphorical, and aphoristic descriptions of the titular subject. To get a grip on the concept, I [Nathan Altice] made a mildly pointless tool that scrapes the book for the word 'hyperobject' (and its variations) and compiles them chronologically...There are roughly 450 statements." 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Human-Looking Faces on Animal Bodies: Taxidermy as Art | National Geographic

Kate Clark: Taxidermy as Art | National Geographic video here


Frieze magazine, Issue 94, 2005, article here

The 12 artists selected for this enlightening and often unsettling show are drawn to the animal kingdom – in the words of curator Nato Thompson – ‘by an intense focus on the philosophical, medical, biological and ethical connections that bind us to [animals]’. ‘Becoming Animal’ focused on ecology, DNA blending and the politics of science, using a variety of media, including collage, installation, performance, photo-graphy, video and sculpture. Godfather of the show was the late Joseph Beuys, who, lest anyone forget, was the founder of the first political party for animals. Beuys, the animistic shaman who spent a week communing with a wild coyote in a New York gallery in 1974, was here represented simply by a photograph taken during his 1965 performance How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. This famous image documents Beuys’ Duesseldorf action, in which, his face covered in honey and gold leaf, he cradled a lifeless hare in his arms and whispered to it – presumably about art – establishing an aesthetic bond not only with the animal but also with its spirit.
Mark Dion’s ongoing series of tree projects, which question the foundations of scientific classification, history, art and zoology, continued in a specially commissioned work, Library for the Birds of Massachusetts (2005). A small flock of zebra finches calmly fly around inside a cylindrical steel aviary containing a lifeless maple tree, its limbs reconfigured and transformed with plywood into library shelves filled with hundreds of natural history and science texts. (The branches also support an assortment of guns, oil cans, lead shot and a dead bird, covered in a tarry substance.) The obvious irony of the situation is that the vast amounts of taxonomical and scientific knowledge on which the finches chirp, eat and shit are nothing more meaningful than a convenient perch, while to the viewer observing from outside Dion’s caged Tree of Knowledge, the humans visitors entering the enclosure become zoo-like specimens, objects of study and curiosity.
Kathy High’s Embracing Animal (2004) was inspired by an empathetic inquisitiveness regarding three retired breeder albino lab rats whose immune systems have been severely depleted through repeated human DNA injections. Her darkened environment features a miniature indoor maze of see-through steel mesh domes, clear plastic tube-tunnels and a child’s toy barn assembled to house her adopted transgenic rodents, which she is trying to restore to some semblance of health through a regimen of love, organic food, homeopathic remedies and play. High, who suffers from auto-immune problems herself, feels a kinship for these fragile, photophobic, balding creatures, which she describes in her accompanying Rat Love Manifesto as ‘transitional combined beings […] like cousins that mirror us in ways that other animals cannot’.
Extinction and loss are the motivation behind Rachel Berwick’s moving installation Lonesome George (2005). The eponym-ous protagonist, an 80-year-old tortoise featured in two videos, is the last of his subspecies on Abingdoni, one of the Galapagos Islands. Large billowing sails, whose movement is propelled by fans that are synchronized with George’s monotonous breathing, recall the 19th-century whaling ships that hunted the island tortoises while, nearby, Darwin was formulating his theories on natural selection. A volcanic glass cast of George’s shell reminds us of his mortality and the extinction of yet another species.
Some of the most riveting works in the show exploit our fascination with monstrous cross-species. In Motohiko Odani’s short video loop Rompers (2003) a young, attractive girl with short skirt, pigtails and jaundiced eyes sits smiling on a tree branch, swinging her legs. A sweet melody plays as honey oozes below her and frogs with human ears growing from their backs leap in a trance-like circle. The fairy-tale ‘innocence’ is shattered when the mutant girl captures a fly with her long, lizard-like tongue. Elsewhere Ann-Sofi Sidén’s alter ego QM (Queen of Mud) made an appearance as a cold-blooded, crawling, slough creature hiding beneath the bed of a neurotic psychoanalyst in the riotously funny 35mm film QM, I Think I Call her QM (1997). Patricia Piccinini’s silicone, acrylic and human hair sculpture The Young Family (2002–3) depicts a fleshy human-hog monster warily nursing her triplets in a birth scene that is discomfitingly similar to Ron Mueck’s Mother and Child (2001). Whereas there is a certain realist resemblance in the careful attention given to folds of skin, body hair, genitalia and the emotional states of wonderment and exhaustion of the new mothers, Piccinini’s nativity is equal parts wonder and horror.
Most intriguing and scary about the best work in ‘Becoming Animal’ was how easy it is to destabilize and question the once firm and established boundaries between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom. With the human capacity to radically manipulate the natural world of which we are a part, what was once the stuff of madness or fairy tales is now not only conceivable but possible. One is left wondering how supreme our place in scheme of things really is.


Worm Grunting Video here

Death Metal Music Attracts Sharks, Documentary Crew Finds Out  The low, rumbling frequencies of death metal mimc the sounds of struggling fish
Article here Video here

Charles Darwin on Worms

"Action of Worms" read aloud here


This work bears the circular stamp of the German Student Party, in red ink. Formed by Beuys in 1967, the artist commented 'The German Student Party is the world's largest party, but most of its members are animals'. The names handwritten beside the typed list of words is presumably a list of party members, including the name of the artist. Beuys was greatly involved with student politics in the 1960s and 1970s whilst he was a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He later went on to co-found the Green Party in Germany.

Sandra the Captive Orangutan Wins Right to Freedom From Argentine Zoo
An orangutan held in Buenos Aires Zoo can be freed after a court recognized the ape as a "non-human person" unlawfully deprived of its freedom. Report by Claire Lomas. Video here

Pig-human Chimeras Could Help Grow Human Organs

 Article here from Livescience.com
Video here



Comments here

Monday, January 23, 2017


Mel Chin discusses place, his song "You Sent Me Sir" and his work Mel Chin Terrapine Carolina (Hillbilly Armor), 2005 here


Lawrence Weschler discusses Theo Jansen's ongoing Strandbeest project here


Listen to Home on Lagrange podcast here

In 1968, an Italian industrialist and a Scottish scientist started a club to address what they considered to be humankind’s greatest problems—issues like pollution, resource scarcity, and overpopulation. Meeting in Rome, Italy, the group came to be known as the Club of Rome and it grew to include politicians, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the world. Together with a group of MIT researchers doing computer modeling, The Club of Rome concluded that sometime in the 21st century, earth would reach its carrying capacity—that resources would not keep up with population—and there would be a massive collapse of global society... continue here


Advanced Sculpture add your comments below for Chapter 3.


Grad seminar add your comments below for Chapter 2.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Link to Vibrant Matter Book


Individual Comments for Vibrant Matter - Chapter 1: Force of Things

TIMOTHY MORTON "Introducing the idea of ‘hyperobjects’ "

Image: Chris Jordan and Rebecca Clark, "Silent Spring"

"Silent Spring" depicts 183,000 birds, equal to the estimated number of birds that die in the United States every day from exposure to agricultural pesticides.

Introducing the idea of ‘hyperobjects’ 

A new way of understanding climate change and other phenomena.
Timothy Morton, High Country News, Essay, January 19, 2015

essay here

I’m an environmental philosopher. In 2008, I invented a word to describe all kinds of things that you can study and think about and compute, but that are not so easy to see directly: hyperobjects. Things like: not just a Styrofoam cup or two, but all the Styrofoam on Earth, ever. All that Styrofoam is going to last an awfully long time: 500 years, maybe. It’s going to outlive me by a great extent. Will my family’s descendants even be related to me in any kind of meaningful way by 2514? There is so much more Styrofoam on Earth right now than there is Timothy Morton.

So hyperobjects outlast me, and they out-scale me in the here and now. Let’s think of another example. Not just this one speck of plutonium, but all the plutonium we’ve made, ever. That plutonium decays for 24,100 years before it’s totally safe. That’s an unimaginable time. I can just about wrap my head around 500 years when I think about Styrofoam. But 24,100 years? Yet I’m obliged to act with a view to the people, whoever they are, who are alive at that point. Who knows whether I would even recognize them as human? Maybe by then we will have merged with a whole host of extraterrestrials. I don’t know. I’m like Donald Rumsfeld and his “unknown unknowns”: There are things I don’t know about the future, and I don’t even know how much I don’t know about it. But it’s coming.

Plutonium is a problem. Humans made it, so we’re pretty much responsible for it. Beyond that, I can understand what plutonium is — which seems like a pretty good reason for assuming responsibility for something. Suppose I see someone about to be hit by an oncoming car. I can understand that she’s about to be killed, so I’m obliged to step in and save her. Hyperobjects are like that — like the Dust Bowl, for instance, or the colossal drought in California. We are obliged to do something about them, because we can think them.

That’s good news if you care about mitigating the effects of global warming. (I refuse to call it climate change. The globe is literally warming because of greenhouse gases.) Thinking ecologically about global warming requires a kind of mental upgrade, to cope with something that is so big and so powerful that until now we had no real word for it. However, thinking of global warming as a hyperobject is really helpful. For starters, the concept of hyperobjects gives us a single word to describe something on the tips of our tongues. It’s very difficult to talk about something you cannot see or touch, yet we are obliged to do so, since global warming affects us all.

I can’t see it. I can’t touch it. But I know it exists, and I know I’m part of it. I should care about it.

Many people have told me, “Oh, now I have a term for this thing I’ve been trying to grasp!” We can see, for instance, that global warming has the properties of a hyperobject. It is “viscous” — whatever I do, wherever I am, it sort of “sticks” to me. It is “nonlocal” — its effects are globally distributed through a huge tract of time. It forces me to experience time in an unusual way. It is “phased” — I only experience pieces of it at any one time. And it is “inter-objective” — it consists of all kinds of other entities but it isn’t reducible to them.

If you can understand global warming, you have to do something about it. Forget about needing proof or needing to convince more people. Just stick to what’s really super obvious. Can you understand hyperobjects? Then you are obliged to care about them.

So hyperobjects are massively distributed in time and space and we are obliged to care about them, even if we didn’t manufacture them. Take the biosphere. I can’t see it. I can’t touch it. But I know it exists, and I know I’m part of it. I should care about it.

Or global warming. I can’t see or touch it. What I can see and touch are these raindrops, this snow, that sunburn patch on the back of my neck. I can touch the weather. But I can’t touch climate. So someone can declare: “See! It snowed in Boise, Idaho, this week. That means there’s no global warming!” We can’t directly see global warming, because it’s not only really widespread and really really long-lasting (100,000 years); it’s also super high-dimensional. It’s not just 3-D. It’s an incredibly complex entity that you have to map in what they call a high-dimensional- phase space: a space that plots all the states of a system.

In so doing, we are only following the strictures of modern science, laid down by David Hume and underwritten by Immanuel Kant. Science can’t directly point to causes and effects: That would be metaphysical, equivalent to religious dogma. It can only see correlations in data. This is because, argues Kant, there is a gap between what a thing is and how it appears (its “phenomena”) that can’t be reduced, no matter how hard we try. We can’t locate this gap anywhere on or inside a thing. It’s a transcendental gap. Hyperobjects force us to confront this truth of modern science and philosophy.

It’s like being inside the gigantic worm in The Empire Strikes Back. For a while, you can kid yourself that you’re not inside a gigantic worm, until it starts digesting you. Because the worm is “everywhere” in your field of vision, you can’t really tell the difference between it and the surface of the asteroid you think you landed on.

The person who denies there’s global warming because he can still touch snow is partying like it’s 1759. He’s partying like modern science never happened. Modern science happened largely because of Hume, a Scottish skeptical empiricist. In another life, Hume might have been the bass player for Pink Floyd, because he certainly could have written some of the group’s lyrics. “All you touch and all you see / Is all your life will ever be” — that’s basic Hume right there. You can’t know things directly; you can only know data. That’s the foundation of modern science. Cause and effect aren’t things that churn away underneath other things. They are inferences that we make about patterns we see in data.

Oddly enough, this makes modern science more accurate and honest than anything we’ve previously come up with. The thing is, statistical correlations are better than bald statements of fact that you just have to believe or face the consequences. (“The Earth is flat! God is this golden calf!”) It’s better to say that we’re 95 percent sure global warming was caused by humans than to shout, “It was caused by humans, dang it! Just believe me!” You have some actual data to go on, in the 95 percent case. Try rolling two 10-sided dice and coming up with the numbers from 96 to 100. (As a recovering Dungeons & Dragons player, I know what I’m talking about here.) It’s incredibly unlikely.

So hyperobjects are funny. On the one hand, we have all this incredible data about them. On the other hand, we can’t experience them directly. We’ve stumbled upon these huge things, like Han Solo and Princess Leia and the giant worm. So we need philosophy and art to help guide us, while the way we think about things gets upgraded.

Human beings are now going through this upgrade. The upgrade is called ecological awareness.

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University in Houston. He is the author of Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality and Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End Of The World. He is currently working on a writing project with Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.

JANE BENNETT LECTURE - Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter | The New School

JANE BENNETT LECTURE - Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter | The New School
Video here