Preliminary theses on the “interspecies interface.”

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I would like to focus on the concept of the “interspecies interface,” in general terms. An image may perhaps be useful:

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This image is the primary template for all interspecies interfaces. The interface always stands in as a middle term between two radically different creatures. The interface is an object at the same time that it is an event or a process. It is a mediator as well as the very act of mediation itself. When the interface is in place, the constitutive difference between species A and species B is in some way erased; but, in many other ways, this constitutive difference remains and is perhaps accentuated. So the interface is a machine that changes the way that differences between two species are configured in relation to one another; in so doing, the interface also changes how each species configures itself in relation to itself. The moment of interfacing is one in which two species together enter into a state of exception (c.f. Agamben) in regards to what they are in relation to one another or in relation to themselves.

related texts and ephemera: Preliminary theses on the “interspecies interface” (p.1) / The Open: Man and Animal (2004) by Giorgio Agamben

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I would like to focus on the concept of the “interspecies interface.” Let us recall a diagram from earlier:

What I want to highlight at this juncture is the prosthetic character of the interface. As an object, the interface is always a prosthesis, albeit a unique one. Medically speaking, the prosthesis is always meant to fill a gap, to replace something missing in the subject and make them whole (again). The interface is something of a double prosthesis, in the sense that it fills in two gaps in two different beings…

So, the interface is a prosthetic mediator (as well as a prosthetic act of mediation) between two different species or entities. It is a technology that connects two discontinuous entities to one another; the form of connection that is enacted by the interface is one that transforms all three members of the encounter (species A, interface, species B) into components of a prosthetic assemblage, in which differences between species or even topologies of inside/outside become suspended or momentarily confused.

An outside technology created by one species—or more truthfully, co-created by both species—emerges from the desire to connect the two species to one another. Once the interface has come into being, it descends upon the situation as an insertion, filling out the gap between and thus outside the two species at the same time that it fills out the gaps inside the species themselves. So the prosthesis mediates-between at the same time that it temporarily constitutes the very being of each member of the encounter. The interface is both outside and inside each species, a technology that draws a line of contiguity across interiority and exteriority, across being and communication and desiring and touching

3.1 Consent Machines & Consenting Beasts, written by Nilo Goldfarb…

An outside technology created by one species—or more truthfully, co-created by both species—emerges from the desire to connect the two species to one another. Once the interface has come into being, it descends upon the situation as an insertion, filling out the gap between and thus outside the two species at the same time that it fills out the gaps inside the species themselves. The term “insertion” here is potent. At risk of conjuring the field of Freudian association and error, I want to quickly run through a thought that this piece provoked about consent. 

3.1.1 Consent Machines

Being: a question—at what stage is it possible or necessary to affirm consent? Is it fair to speak of a primary interrogative stage in which two subjects produce a contract that they will both exchange attentions? And must the consent precede consent? That is, must one consent to the primary interrogative? In contemporary human discourse, it often seems that there are vaguely defined boundaries about what kinds of questions must precede others. Also a tendency to want real hardline distinctions for the purpose of prosecuting rape etc. I think this is one of the bizarre cases of Logocentrism where the function of the logos is inverted to represent the case of the feminine subject in court. Still using Derrida (loosely), in terms of the performative and the constative, there seems to be a necessary expectation for a particular chain of functional activities. For consent to occur there must be a necessary field of the constitutive activity preceding performative activity, and a necessary margin of limitation on what kinds of disruption can occur. In legal discourse, and the cultural discourses tethered to the court, it seems that there is a stark division on the grounds of the physical and the verbal. It is of course the case that the field of communication is diverse enough that there is a definite negative dimension to this simplistic breakdown. (It is, however, necessary to insist that I am not inferring any pragmatic vision—I have no where near arrived at this.) Specifically I think it could be fruitful to think through the difference between communication and interfacing in terms of consent.

The differences between humans and non-humans must raise new questions for the field of consent and it is difficult to know in what direction the implications might be allowed to travel—If we can learn about interhuman communication from our attempts to communicate with animals or if we must develop entirely separate machines for consent. Maybe we are only really learning about ourselves.

3.1.2 Consenting Beasts

Another which is about the limits of the extra-discursive (a general theoretical rupture that I see between “post-structuralist” and contemporary critical modalities such as “inhumanism,” “object-oriented ontology” etc). The basic questions that seem to arise in the wake of post-structuralism about the potential influence of objects and non-humans is whether or not these figures can enter discourse without concealing the boundaries of that discourse. Could this be considered a sort of bestiality by which the non-human enters human discourse without consent, only to be puppeted by Western philosophy in a largely regressive turn to the non-verbal out-there?

related texts and ephemera: Preliminary theses on the “interspecies interface” ( 1 )