Creating the Semi-Living: On Politics, Aesthetics and the More-than-Human

Deborah Phyllis Dixon

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85 Citations (SciVal)


Though geographers have remarked on the aesthetic and political character of a technoscientific biology, there has been an accompanying tendency, following disciplinary trends and social theory more broadly, to read these as being separate issues at the analytic as well as substantive level. Whereas the former becomes read as a matter of artistic practice and appreciation, or visual appraisal, the latter is considered to be the exercise of power through discipline and regulation. Here, I draw upon Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics (2007, Continuum, London) to make a stronger claim for the role of the aesthetic, wherein a political regime is understood to be comprised of a ‘distribution of the sensible’ that orders what can be seen and what can be said about it, that determines who has the ability to see and to speak, that organises the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time, and that locates the identity of the quick and the dead within a grid of intelligibility. Political struggle is necessarily aesthetic insofar as it is an attempt to reconfigure the place not only of particular groups, but also the social order within which they are embedded. For Rancière, artistic practices are but particular ways of making and doing; they can have a distinctly political function, however, in the way that they reorder the relations among spaces and times, subjects and objects. To animate this discussion I draw on examples from critical BioArt that address the more-than-human world of Semi-Living Objects. From overt manifesto to ironic commentary, the practices, understandings and artefacts that comprise BioArt work to challenge the political, economic, cultural and ethical contexts within which a modern-day technoscientific biology operates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-425
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jul 2009
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2009


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