Many academics, activists, cultural theorists and sociologists around the world, have warned as early as the 1990s that the scale of changes humanity has provoked has become so massive that the line between manageable and unmanageable risks could be crossed any time soon (Zygmunt Bauman, Life in Fragments). Even the most fearsome global state apparatus the world has known, the CIA, did not hold back its pessimistic vision of planetary life (in a report made in the year 2000) where a dreaded stalemate between humans and viral outbreaks (which exploded with Covid-19 exactly 20 years after the report) could lead to an irreversible ‘deterioration in the position of humans’ over a long stretch ahead (Frank M. Snowden, Epidemics and Society: From Black Death to the Present). These prognoses all point to the mundane features of modernity as the overall culprit, each connected to the other facet of planetary conditions by an overarching logic of collapse: ‘population growth, climate change, rapid means of transportation, the proliferation of megacities with inadequate urban infrastructures, warfare, persistent poverty, and widening social inequalities.’

This project aims to provide an aesthetic/design template for how within emerging institutional spaces amid the twin threats of epidemics and saturated modernity, man-made and natural catastrophes, a resilient psychogeography can combine models of contouring (Deleuze and Guattari) and abyss-sensitive (Schellingian) approaches to collapse. We mean these approaches as modeling both 1) a people’s psychogeographic attunement to collapse within ‘species-specific space of surprise’ (Peter Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life: On Anthropotechnics), produced by geologic time (natural catastrophes, etc.), and 2) a somatic semi-porosity to geologic abyss (life has an immanent end). The overall model here is performance art and its resonance in film making as a principle-providing modus operandi for a new spatial psychogeographic design to maximize potentials for life amid the precarity of our geologic times, and the immanent end of ethics.  

Gabay-Anino Theory and Art Collective

Philippines @2020

July 2020

Auto-Construction of Catastrophe in Science Fiction Films 

How does posthumanism address the ‘original duplicity’ of nature (Schelling 2004) that tends to exhaust human knowledge attempting to bridge the synchronous gap between embodied mind and itself? Here, we may refer to an interruption short of the universal necessity of an ‘arrested stream of causes and effects’ (Schelling 2010) that sustains multi-scalar composition on Earth, otherwise stated, a local point of nature’s inhibition. This self-inhibition decrees nature not to proceed infinitely at a speed where grasping its movement becomes impossible but leaves subjects and objects alike at the behest of decomposition, death, and decay so that infinite productivity could go on. 

In this light, we mean ‘posthumanism’ as a kind of “metaphysical claim about the kinds of things that could exist in the world” (Roden 2019) vis-à-vis the world governed by an inexistent nature (Grant 2013). We also take this ‘speculative’ posthumanism as a form of Schellingian intervention in the matter of the duplicitous (Schelling 2004) status of the human. 

In contemporary science fiction films, Alex Garland’s two recent visual interpolations in Annihilation and Devs play out the same contradictions inherent in this human state. Garland’s cinematic ventures assume a contextual assemblage where the human has already lost its currency to shape our ontological commitments even as these commitments give way to the “emergence of actual posthumans” (Roden 2015). Paradoxically, these actual posthumans (the two individuals who apparently survived the Shimmer in Annihilation, and Forest and Lily in Devs) lie at the spatial exteriority of a dissipating temporal concept of Man (the ‘Shimmer’ and ‘Area X’, respectively) which inversely corresponds to ‘the dated nonexistence of the posthuman’ (Roden 2015).

Beyond which is up for speculation, including its saturation in the occult (Negarestani 2008), or the ‘geocosmic motor of terrestrial transformation’ (CCRU 1999; Moynihan 2019), noting the caveat of not returning to the anthropocentrism of dated existent humans. However, these ‘dated humans’ still man the servers and the algorithmic networks (in Devs) that build the infrastructure for actual posthumans, even ‘mediated posthumans (Sharon 2014), or the military-industrial complex (in Annihilation) that views the ‘Shimmer’ as ‘an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space’(Land 2008).  

This paper hopes to extend these discussions to the overall articulation of what Wolf-Meyer (2019) describes as the disabling function of science fiction as ‘speculative fiction and apocalyptic anthropology’ concerning the work of the present. But how they disable the work of the present, its infrastructure, including the physical and metaphysical structures of coding, concerning libidinal investments in embodied minds and desiring-machines (Deleuze and Guattari 1983), for instance, leave a fundamental question unattended, is catastrophe willed or necessitated? The posthuman stands on the edge of this question concerning catastrophe (issuing from the original duplicity of nature) that has become a space that auto-constructs itself, a kind of unprethinkable stream of causes and effects (Schelling 2007) in an emergent ‘posthuman multiverse’(Ferrando 2019). As similarly described by Braidotti, this plane of organization approaches a Deleuzian concept of ‘in-between state that [defies] the logic of excluded middle’ (2011, 2018). 

Arguably, this catastrophe is more intensely contested, both ontologically and morally, in contemporary science fiction. In this light, we are looking into a new Earth assemblage, across the literary and cinematic range of interventions that visualizes a new habitat of actual posthumans that never actually live, paradoxically speaking, as dated existent humans do.

KeywordsAnnihilation, apocalyptic anthropology, arrested stream of causes and effects, dated posthumans, Devs, original duplicity of nature, unprethinkable


Braidotti, R. (2018). “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities.” Theory, Culture and Society 0, 0: 1-31. 

Braidotti, R. (2011).  Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. (1983). Anti-Oedipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. 

Ferrando, F. (2019). Philosophical Posthumanism. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Grant, I.A. (2013). “The Law of Insuperable Environment: What Is Exhibited in the Exhibition of the Process of Nature?” Analecta Hermeneutica, 5, 1-17. 

Land, N. (1993). “Machine Desire”, Textual Practice, 7:3, 471-482.

Negarestani, R. (2008). Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. Melbourne, Australia: 

Roden, D. (2019). “Speculative Posthumanism.” Posthuman Glossary. Ed. Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova. London: New York, etc.: Bloomsbury Academic, 398-401.

Roden, D. (2015). Posthuman Life: Philosophy At the Edge of the Human. London and New York: Routledge.

Schelling, F.W.J. (2010). The Grounding of Positive Philosophy. Trans. Bruce Matthews. New York: State University of New York Press, Albany. 

Schelling, F.W.J., (2004). First Outline of A System of the Philosophy of Nature. Trans. Keith R. Peterson. New York: State University of New York Press, Albany.

Sharon, T. (2014). The Human Nature in an Age of Biotechnology: The Case for Mediated Posthumanism. Dordrecht and Heidelberg and New York, etc.: Springer. 

Wolf-Meyer, M. (2019). Theory for the World to Come. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. 

August 2020