Thinkability: On the Anthropocene Lecture Series with Giovanni Tusa

by Rachael M Rollson

Cohort ‘16

It should be particular of any conversation regarding the Anthropocene to interpret it as an aesthetic invitation. The typical and cynical referential treatment of the anthropos in this consideration is to see it as the epitome of the destructive nature of man in a changing eco-system; as the extractionist in a dominant science of reductionism (or colonial anachronism in an evolving world). In a recent lecture entitled, Revolution Anthropocene: Geoaesthetics of the Planetary Condition, Professor Giovanni Tusa informs us that the isolated anthropos has become a distorted representation as a “very special kind of ‘human being’...defining this age...as a hero of civilization.” In this non-geologic situation, the paradox is that the more powerful or real the Anthropocene becomes through extractivist idealizations, the less individuals feel capable of altering reality. What makes this stand beyond a geologic era and into a geoaesthetic one is the ecological nature of the changes of both man and earth as collaborative beings.

In the understanding of the co-operative and co-existence of humans and ‘inhuman forces’ the meaning of the anthropos is subject to change. In opposition to modernity’s limited identification of the Platonic cosmos, Professor Tusa elaborates that thinkers such as Hannah Arendt in her discussion of the viva activa as a life of action versus a life of reflection (found in The Human Condition), Achille Mbembe’s ‘Notes on Brutalism’ (Brutalisme) on a reshaping of planetary symbiotic relationships, and Kathryn Yusoff on the destruction and non-neutrality of science (A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None) already assert atmospheric interconnections. As such, these interconnections hint at something beyond the idea of the sacred Earth, opening up new possibilities of other earths, anarchic earths.

Professor Tusa speaks of the atmospherical acting as an extension of ‘thinkability’ compared to the stable ground of Earth as an object, even a unique one, from which can be abstracted and extracted. He explains this extractivist energy as one of reduction to the nondivisible lead by fossil capitalism and expanded by digital appropriation, which continues to collect and codify data emphasizing what Bifo Berardi considers as defining our current age in the “exploitation of the soul.” There have been points along the historical timeline of man which have sought to solidify Earth as its own unthinkable limitation and humanity united as one. The problem with this thinking, Professor Tusa points out, is that Earth as this spherical idea becomes untouchable. Thus, the Anthropocene makes people responsible for the Earth’s repair as it simultaneously becomes an object of destruction. This new limit represents the limited thinking in a self-contained and self-perpetuating model of globalization.

Earthrise  by William Anders, 1968 (NASA)
Earthrise by William Anders, 1968 (NASA)

This Euro-metaphysical globe is not subject to change (or open to it). It supports Martin Heidegger’s concerns of its own technological essence brought on by the modern externality made aware by NASA’s visitations to the lunar orbit (see fig. 1). This understanding of Earth requires the external gaze to exist but Professor Tusa, evoking Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, reminds us that “belonging is not the way you inhabit planetarity” as alterity is always belonging to another system. It is non-interchangeable and nonmeasurable. This idea moves thinking beyond one of forms and reopens the question of animate versus inanimate regarding encounters.

Professor Tusa discusses Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s idea of geophilosophy, which furthers the call for a revolution of perspective regarding Earth as an anthropocentric limited totality. He provides “art as a possible germinating viewpoint” to “escape the exhaustion of the “self-contained planetary interior” to which Western Metaphysics aligns thinking. In the entanglement of the human and the nonhuman, this intentional co-activity (of art) is “sensitive to planetary diversities and different histories.” Art, as a seed of thinking, opens multiple awareness beyond the private space of human relations. This space becomes one of possibility or as relational encounters between human and nonhuman sensing. Professor Tusa says that this “new sensorium awakens [Karl] Marx’s general intellect as ecological aesthetics” as the sensors (in these encounters) “give back a polyphony of images intertwined with artificial intelligence” (the nonhuman).

This close relationship of thinking and living amongst other (kinds of) beings does not distance us from fragility and risk; however, it does rely on what Professor Tusa calls a “formless dimension to which we depend and is hidden from us.” This dimension is the “space of promiscuity” encouraged by the relational aesthetics referenced from art curator Nicolas Bourriaud. It also enhances Karen Barad’s idea of mattering as relational preceding the elemental substantiation or reduction of living things to their organizational model (as organisms). Professor Tusa concludes, “thought is not the property of the resource of the substance but enhanced by further alienation,” leading to “thinking which is never exhausted by its own utilization.” Thinking the unthinkable in an age of non-thinking looks to art to proliferate awareness. Moving beyond the stationary and sacred form of Earth to attend to the relational encounters of human to nonhuman revolutionizes ecological thinking and the future of metaphysics.