- Vanina Saracino - More-than-human perspectives and tentacular thinking
More-than-human perspectives and tentacular thinking
A seminar by Vanina Saracino
The seminar More-Than-Human Perspectives and Tentacular Thinking focuses on current theories and art strategies that take distance from anthropocentric worldviews, rooted in Western imperialistic notions of the human as a generic masculine heterosexual Anthropos and, instead, subvert the dual opposition nature-culture to focus on the autopoietic force of all living matter.
Since the end of the ‘60s, biologist Lynn Margulis has argued that endosymbiotic relationships between organisms are the driving force of evolution—its “engine”. Evolution does not result from the accumulation of random mutations in individuals among whom only the fittest is selected amidst harsh competition (neo-Darwinism), but is instead the outcome of multiple endosymbiotic relationships among different species that gradually transform into enhanced organisms with more chances of survival when facing drastic environmental changes. Unity and collaboration are therefore keys to understanding matters related to life, evolution and consciousness. A human body is never one either: we are inhabited by millions of bacteria, fungi, even viruses, a microbial “consortium” whose subsistence we support and from whom our existence directly depends on—a more-than-human holobiont.
To the binary thinking (which is the paradigm of a technocapitalist logic driven by extraction, exploitation and profit), Donna Haraway has opposed the tentacular thinking (Haraway, 2016), a mode of thinking and operating that can be symbolically embodied by the octopus, with their fluid bodies and decentralized minds defying the human body/brain architecture, and craftily merging what we call “understanding” and “sensing” into a single gesture. Thinking “tentacularly” can have a profound transformative effect on the ways we understand the planet and its functioning, allowing us to become disengaged from binary thinking, to find instead creative ways to shift our logic and imagine new worlds, based on collaboration and inclusion and justice, rather than competition, exclusion and oppression. Changing our modes of thinking has become necessary and urgent today, and art can be a platform for the transformation of our worldview and the rehearsal of new strategies of living. These ideas will inform our conversations throughout the entire seminar.
More-Than-Human Perspectives and Tentacular Thinking unfolds as a non-exhaustive survey of artist’s practices that directly or indirectly embrace tentacular modes of thinking. The works we will consider deeply question human exceptionalism, mirroring a crucial transformation that is actually taking place and in which the imperialized ideas of a Homo Sapiens—on which sciences of the 21st Century are based—are displaying their inability to mirror and articulate the richness of new biological findings and worldviews.
More-Than-Human Perspectives and Tentacular Thinking will conclude with the students realization of an essay related to the topics approached throughout the semester.