A creature in the making
by Elena E. Ćirković
(this blog is adapted from a forthcoming publication in the journal Anthropocenes)
Figure 1. No one/no name. Watercolour and Pencil, by Elena Cirkovic (Helsinki 2020)
A/The Creature is embedded in these interactions intertwined with its fellow creatures and materialities, while also evolving by its own decision. The Creature is a host to other creatures, bacteria, viruses; it ingests and is being ingested. Humanity’s “progress”, which has resulted in myriad of unintended consequences, from contamination, often irreversible environmental damage, loss of species, as well as changes in species behaviour, is also testing its own capacities.
It has suffered, it has been uprooted from its “natural” habitat, the habitat itself was destroyed, but the planet shining above it continues to exist objectively.
So, the Creature becomes a cyborg, a cosmo-body, instead of just a body with a damaged internal glitch, and hence goes beyond the perceived stereotype of a weakness, damage, disability, or even acceptance of “natural death”. It is interested in cosmos, as an illimitable expanse, that is not yet well known.
Human as a machine, again, better understood as a functional Creature with unconscious homeostatic controls and psycho-physiological abilities, recognises the inner self-regulating autopoietic system of this organism, has capacity to thrive as well as self-destruct through glitches in the system. Some of these glitches are inexplicable, others just mistakes in our DNA codes, and other processes, or caused by external damage.
Scientific advances and smart tech already have capacity to correct some of those glitches, and even enhance human bodies. Harraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (Harraway 1985) explains that humans, intertwined with machines, already represent culture intruding over nature, changing the human body in the process. There are no real boundaries between the 'cultural', the 'natural' and the 'altered' are more and more intangible. But even without alterations, human self-image as a conscious and spiritual Creature can easily be challenged by its own capacity to operate “as nature intended” and even hurt itself in the process.
A human body with a glitch in the interactions of its inner bodily functions, such as hormonal fluctuations, can die because of 1. The “natural” intention of this body to function as a reproductive system, together with 2. Body’s incapacity to sustain the hormonal changes, 3. hence resulting in various glitches including self-destructive tendencies. The machine “self-destructs”. In a context where medical research might choose to focus on such a “glitch”-for “not all bodies are researched equally”, the machine might be fixed, or even enhanced. As machines are an extension of and are embedded in human bodies and lives, the boundaries have been already broken. The “natural experience” of a body whose own reproductive system results in its self-destruction, would fare better by becoming “unnatural”, modified, bettered, fixed, and saved.
The Creature is a biological organism, and a “cybernetic organism”-a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. The Creature modifies itself to adapt to extra-terrestrial environments, rather than modifying the outer space environment for their survival. Because a cyborg is a hybrid of the machine and the organism, it merges nature and culture into one body, blurring the lines between them and eliminating the validity of essentialist understandings of human nature. Humans interact with its surroundings and are embedded in it.
But what happens in a dangerous and unknown environment? This Creature recognises the lack of human/non-human boundaries, but not only with recognition of interconnectedness with other species, lives, or materialities-this is a Creature who/that can also modify itself/herself/themselves.