Audiovisual Posthumanism: Aesthetics, Cultural Theory and the Arts

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Am I Human?

This paper provides a Posthuman reading of the Film Avatar (2009). It will be argued that Avatar explicitly addresses some of Posthumanism’s main issues, mainly regarding the ambiguous view of modern technology and the critic to the Western Modern Humanistic project to rule and master over nature. Furthermore, it will be argued that Avatar does place itself at the core of Posthuman views concerning the shifting boundary line between the Human and the Animal and the Natural and the Technological. It also explicitly addresses issues concerning avatars and the virtual world and is in itself a reflexion about the impact of digital technology on the form and content of film.
With regard to film content, Posthuman’s issues broadly address the confrontation of two worlds. The first is a totally technological one, in which technology is still used in its modern western Humanistic sense, i.e, as an ally of humans in their project to rule and master over Nature. The second is Pandora’s world. The name given to this world, ‘Pandora’, reveals the Humanistic understanding of it: it is a surprise box, full of forces and energies that rule outside Modern understanding and control. However, in the film, Pandora is portrayed as a world where Na’vi people participate entirely in the natural forces and energies and are a living part of it. Nature, in turn, is conceived as being ruled by energies that are not reducible to a humanistic understanding. And, paradoxically, it is the technologically constructed avatars that are able to understand and participate in Pandora’s world, since humans seem to have lost this capacity. So, the film offers also a new understanding of what can be a posthuman technology.
In formal terms, the film is an example of the technological process of liberating a totally fixed identity (like the global use of computer avatars), so that we may experience ourselves as multiple identities disclosing multiple worlds. And we can ask: is Jake Sully’s technological avatar more real than the human Jake, as he himself states? How can technologically created avatars participate in Eywa? Can this technology understand Pandora’s world? What features characterize this new account and use of technology? Is this film human or posthuma
Period25 Sept 2010
Event typeConference
LocationMytilene, GreeceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational