All posts by N.S. Anderson

I am a PhD graduate from the Joint Program in Communication and Culture at York University and Ryerson University with a specialization in media and culture. My ongoing research involves an investigation of the cultural significance of robots, androids, and other artificial life forms as a means to probe the limits of modern biopolitics and to interrogate the (bio)ethical implications borne out by technological re-articulations of the concept of life. Interdisciplinary in scope and method, my scholarship is situated at the crossroads of literary and rhetorical studies, continental philosophy, critical media theory, and ethics.
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The White God 1: Kurtz

He’s been haunting me. In the past few months, he’s been following me in the books I’ve been reading: Blood Meridian, Heart of Darkness, and now The Windup Girl. The character is a little different each time, whether he shows up as Kurtz, Judge Holden, or Gi Bu Sen/Gibbons—yet there is no mistake. He is a figuration of white, European Humanism, for whom science and technology provide the instruments for the brutal colonization of non-whites and nonhumans alike. He is a white god of death, whose anthropomorphism and ethnocentrism fuel a blinding nihilism… Continue reading

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Marking Territory: Pollution as Appropriation in Serres’ Malfeasance

In Malfeasance: Appropriation through Pollution? French philosopher of science Michel Serres makes a provocative argument that links our seemingly unstoppable drive to pollute and befoul our environment to both an animal instinct to mark our territory and the economic imperative to amass property. Continue reading

A Cause for Young People

A cause for young people is not a supplement of the soul; it is the very future of a society, of a civilization, a culture, and must be worshipped. Young people of the twenty-first century have a right to something other than to be policed: they have a right to a future, and to a future that is terrestrial but nevertheless spiritual, that is, elevated.

Bernard Stiegler. Uncontrollable Societies of Disaffected Individuals, Disbelief and Discredit, Volume 2. Trans. Daniel Ross. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008. 123.

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Numbers or Souls? Angelo Musco’s Ecotechnical Bodyscapes

Angelo Musco. Xylem.  2011.  Metallic C-Print mounted between Aluminum and Plexi-glass.  8'x20'.

“For some it’s the numbers,” Angelo Musco told TIME Lightbox in an interview last March. “For me, it’s the souls.”

Musco creates “Bodyscapes,” enormous images composed of thousands, even millions of naked bodies. What looks like a forest scene or a bird’s nest from a distance turns out to be, upon closer inspection, a mass of bodies stretched, reaching, bent, huddled, flying, swimming, curled, piled, entwined—but most of all, amassed, aggregated, collected, concentrated. The images are certainly beautiful, but it is a terrifying beauty. For Musco, the body is a site and a celebration of pain as well as joy. Continue reading

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Floris Kaayk’s Visions of Emergence 1: “The Order Electrus”

O nature, nature, life will not perish! . . . [I]t will start out naked and tiny; it will take root in the wilderness, and to it all we did and built will mean nothing—our towns and factories, our art, our ideas will all mean nothing, and yet life will not perish! Only we have perished. Our houses and machines will be in ruins, our systems will collapse, and the names of our great will fall away like autumn leaves.

—Karel Čapek, R.U.R.

Back in January, I wrote a post about Floris Kaayk’s “Metalosis Maligna,” a short film that I had seen years ago but thought lost to the internet void. There are two more of his videos that I want to share. Embedded above is “The Order Electrus” (2005), which I saw at the same time as “Metalosis Maligna,” in those heady days as I was groping around for my doctoral thesis project. Check out the video after the jump. Continue reading

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Tiny Free Library

Walking my dog this morning, I discovered this curious little booth in a neighbour’s yard, which seems to have popped out of the ground overnight.

"Free for use of [the] Public."  This structure, erected in a loved one's honour, represents a political act of faith in the future of a community.
“Free for use of [the] Public.” This structure, erected in a loved one’s honour, represents a political act of faith in the future of a community.

I find this Tiny Free Library very touching, not only because it has been erected in somebody’s (posthumous) honour, but also because it is a testimony to a family’s good faith and trust in their community. Whether those who erected the library are aware of it or not, this little structure is an enormous political act. Where our governments and institutions seem to do everything in their power to degrade and dissolve public trust, and seem most inclined to leave little of any worth to posterity, here is a humble reminder of what it means to think of “community” as that which offers up something to the common, invites others to do the same, and puts faith in a future where this common will be preserved.

Shortly after I returned home, I pulled out some books I didn’t need anymore, as did my wife, and I delivered them to the Tiny Library. The shelves are already stuffed full.

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Backyard Magic

On Saturday, I witnessed a paleoanthropological event in my own backyard when my three-year old son began to perform some sort of ritual nature magic.

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Pictured here is the talisman that he constructed to imprison a “bad guy.” The sticks are very deliberately placed, which was made clear when, in typical toddler fashion, he kicked over the structure, only to rebuild it. This happened three times, and while there was some variation upon each iteration, the general design was remarkably similar. He made sure to place many of the individual branches in the same position and orientation each time. The placement of the pinecone was especially important.

I think I was witnessing the birth of some sort of nature-worship, a curiosity about the structure and arrangement of things coupled to the notion that objects have a power that might be unlocked or channeled under the right conditions.

Grow a Planet

What is the Grass? Watching How to Grow a Planet

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

—Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” st. 6

Grass short cell phytoliths in silificied epidermis from Late Cretaceous coprolites from Pisdura, India. Scale bar = 10 micrometers. (See http://depts.washington.edu/strmbrgl/StrombergLab_website/R_Poaceae_evolution.html)
Microscope image of fossilized grass found in a dinosaur coprolite (i.e., a fossil feces). This specimen dates from the Late Cretaceous, about sixty-five million years ago. Scale bar = 10 micrometers. (See the short post here, from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Washington University.)

Last Thursday night found myself mesmerized by a documentary on TVO about grass. Like, absolutely glued to the set with my mouth hanging open. Now, I’m sure you need a moment to back up off the edge of your seat, so take all the time you need.

StewartThis was the final episode of a three-part series from the BBC called How to Grow a Planet, hosted by geologist Iain Stewart. This episode, entitled “The Challenger,” follows Stewart from the ancient cloud forests of Kenya to a South African national park, from the mid-western United States to Senegal, and, finally, Göbekli Tepe in Southern Turkey.

I strongly encourage you to check out this series, so I won’t get into all the details here.  Suffice to say that “The Challenger” follows our hero as it battles trees for dominion over the vegetable kingdom on terrestrial Earth. It’s like Game of Thrones for the horticultural set. Things start to hit close to home near the end of the episode, when grass is held up as the prime mover of hominid evolutionary and cultural development. Continue reading

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Allegories of Occupation

Our Lady of Liberty Park.  Molly Crabapple.  2012-13. "Occupy Wall Street. An anatomy of Zuccotti park, from the free cigarette table to the obnoxious drum circle to the people's library, with appearances by Tim Pool, Shamar Thomas and Tony Bologna. All signage is authentic, especially 'Shit is Fucked up and bullshit'." --Crabapple
Our Lady of Liberty Park. Molly Crabapple. 2012-13.
“Occupy Wall Street. An anatomy of Zuccotti park, from the free cigarette table to the obnoxious drum circle to the people’s library, with appearances by Tim Pool, Shamar Thomas and Tony Bologna. All signage is authentic, especially ‘Shit is Fucked up and bullshit’.” –Crabapple

To celebrate May Day, New-York-based artist and illustrator Molly Crabapple released hi-res images of her recent collection, Shell Game, on Creative Commons. I have posted five images here; the rest can be found on Crabapple’s website.

The project takes the form of nine 6’x4′ paintings and one 3’x3′ painting, all of which depict and comment upon the various crises, occupations, protests, and revolutions that happened throughout 2011. Check out some of my favourites, after the jump. Continue reading