New Criticals

The book’s title, “A Capsule Aesthetic,” was inspired by the figurative and metaphorical use of capsules I discern in Rist, Piccinini, and Mori’s work. The term “capsule” is evocative because it implies something somewhat discrete yet also porous and mutable. (One might think of a gelatin pill or a soap bubble). On the most basic level, Rist, Piccinini, and Mori use a preponderance of capsule, bubble, and pod forms in their installations. The capsule metaphor also suggestively captures the model of post-anthropocentric subjectivity instantiated in their work. Their investigations of human-nonhuman interfaces offer a conception of subjectivity itself as “capsuled”—as contextualized, embodied, and located; contingent upon and constantly in process with the rest of the phenomenal world. The implications of this post-dualist model of subjectivity extend far beyond the art museum walls. (Indeed, feminist science studies scholars have articulated concepts suggestively similar to what I am calling a capsule aesthetic, although without explicit investment in the institutional context of the visual arts; see, among others, Barad on “intra-activity”, Alaimo on “trans-corporeality”, and Nancy Tuana on “viscous porosity”.) At their best, these artistic enactments of post-anthropocentric subjecthood allow us insights into our relationships with nonhuman technologies and forms that define contemporary life.