Non-Identical

Still tracing the boundaries of my concept of the inhuman. If we could use the word “nature” the way it was used in philosophy and science in the 19th. century for example, I would much prefer that. But today nature seems to refer to wilderness and trees. More useful is Adorno’s concept of non-identity. In philosophy it means whatever does not fit the system; in art I think it means respect for whatever emerges from the material which does not belong to the artist. In either case it means resistance to the subject’s desire to dominate, and so there are many ethical, political and environmental implications. Jan Tumlir and I had a long conversation about this, which will be published any day now, and we agree that it is very germane to practice. In my case it means a kind of automatism, more formalist than surrealist. That also applies to the work illustrated, which is made by pouring ink onto a stretched canvas.

Mike Murphy, Expulsion 1 2007

The constellation of ideas to which I have added the term “inhuman” is far more intricate than that rubric suggests. It includes the non-identical, nature, an organic formalism, non-conceptuality, death and limits. With the word itself coming from a poem by Wallace Stevens it includes modernist aestheticism and literary symbolism. It is completely oriented to the social, of which it is a critique, likely the only such that belongs entirely to art. I don’t exactly like the word “inhuman,” but it does get us closer to science, and in science today there are important thoughts about surfaces, and about emergence in complex systems, both of which will come up later on this blog.

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