And then an insurmountable tension, to the level of an incommensurability at Like A Little Disaster / Polignano a Mare

then an insurmountable tension, to the level of an incommensurability

With: Isaac
Lythgoe, Petros Moris, Giulia Essyad, Nicolas Lamas, Jaana-Kristiina
Alakoski, Grace Woodcock.
Gelb, Jennifer West, Daniela Corbascio, Yein Lee, Adham Faramawy,
Dorota Gawęda & Eglė Kulbokaitė, Lucia Cristiani, Cyril Debon,
Agnese Guido, Leilei Wu, Mariantonietta Bagliato, Pauline Julier,
Ludovica Gugliotta, Pinar Marul, Pedro Barateiro,
Elena Eugeni, Bruno Giacchetti

Curated by Like A Little Disaster

March / 10 June 2023

Palazzo San Giuseppe, Via Mulini, 2
Like A Little Disaster, Via Cavour, 68
Polignano a Mare 

Photos: Like A Little Disaster

A Little Disaster

is honored to present “
then an insurmountable tension, to the level of an

a collective exhibition involving twenty-six artists (
Lythgoe, Petros Moris, Giulia Essyad, Nicolas Lamas, Jaana-Kristiina
Alakoski, Grace Woodcock. Susi Gelb, Jennifer West, Daniela
Corbascio, Yein Lee, Adham Faramawy, Dorota Gawęda & Eglė
Kulbokaitė, Lucia Cristiani, Cyril Debon, Agnese Guido, Leilei Wu,
Mariantonietta Bagliato, Pauline Julier, Ludovica Gugliotta, Pinar
Marul, Pedro Barateiro,
Elena Eugeni, Bruno Giacchetti)
gathered to create a scenario decolonized by humans, inhabited by
hybrid objects/subjects, rebellious to any classification or
definitive definition, nodes of network proliferating chimeras that
question concepts of subjectivation, objectification and subjection,
the classification of beings and the hierarchy of actors and values.
The project takes the form of a panorama structured by multiple
sprawling connections that are never completely closed, capable of
setting unexpected consequences in motion.

artists have created works that are not just the end or purpose of a
production process, but means, or tools that enhance the ability to
imagine a space of multiform co-evolution, through which seeking
culture in nature and vice versa, the contingent in the permanent,
identity in difference and in which experimenting with new alliances
and secondary paths that may not always lead to distant places but
shift our point of view, allowing us to consider other possibilities.

works in the show question the binarism separating humans and their
cultures, nature and non-humans, phylogeny and ontogeny, genetic
heritage, and technological alterations. A confusion caused by the
impossibility of recognizing the identity signs of these paradoxical
objects: without contours, without antithetical terms, without
residues. Objects such that they can no longer simply be given in
opposition to the human subject, but among which the human is
involved and with which they share the same mesh and the same
destiny. These viscous, matted,
and rhizomatic s
question the relationship between humans and non-humans by bringing
them into a circular system of reciprocity. A mesh made of liquid,
decentralized, gradual and intersubjective entities, in which each

only be defined in relation (although not the relation itself).

reductionism finds fertile ground in the bio-capitalist mud in which
we are enmeshed, it is based on the notion of is based on a notion of
“human exceptionalism”, ethnocentric and speciesist and,
from here, to the erection of a system founded on the opposition
between nature and history, human and machine, male and female,
identity and otherness, ecology and production, algorithms and neural
connections, genetic heritage and technological alteration,
rationality and instinct, mind and body, spirit and matter, real and
virtual, true and false, organic and inorganic, biotic and abiotic,
between a sense of responsibility and the idea of play, the
environment in which we grow up and the genetic code, sharing and the
sense of self, imagination and economy. In this game of doubles, each
component of the “cognitive couple” is always dominated by its
other, repressed and submissive half. The project thus offers itself
as a space intended for the harmony that is in the meeting of
opposites, as a device through which experiencing a conception of the
individual and his way of relating to reality no longer characterized
by an excluding logic, but which on the contrary tends to include all
modes of expression and areas of action.

these formal and mental paths there is also a critical dimension
towards internalised, acquired and consolidated cognitive models;
criticism that allows you to radically redefine the rules of any
functional system, in order to use the rules in a different way,
ignoring their original purpose.


metamorphic dynamics occupy the agents and subjects of technological
networks are nonhumans as well as humans, which then may both be
termed, if circumstances warrant, hybrids, quasi-objects, or
x factor being the play of indifference between “subjects” and
“objects” when it comes to the construction of
socio-technological networks such as scientific laboratories,
engineering projects, and the human and natural communities that now
depend on them. Through the observation of quasi-objects, one
recovers not a human/nonhuman stand-off but a “variable-ontology
world […] the result of the inter definition of the actors. The
highly mobile concepts describe a neocybernetic vision of the
necessary hybridity of symbiotic networks and system/environment
couplings, and they describe equally well the daemonic landscapes of
metamorphic narratives. The quasi-objects materialize and actualize
the formal mediations that hold nature and society together.

quasi-objects raise what had been only a distinction, then a
separation, then a contradiction, then an insurmountable tension, to
the level of an incommensurability”

can call the ontological condition of medial transformativity
“morphism,” arriving at that term by deleting from
“anthropomorphism” the humanist idealization of anthropos. If the
human does not possess a stable form, it is not formless for all
that. If, instead of attaching it to one constitutional pole or the
other, we move it closer to the middle, it becomes the mediator and
even the intersection of the two… The expression “anthropomorphic”
considerably underestimates our humanity. We should be talking about
morphism. Morphism is the place where technomorphisms, zoomorphisms,
phusimorphisms, ideomorphisms, theomorphisms, sociomorphisms,
psychomorphisms, all come together. Their alliance and their
exchanges, taken together, are what define the anthropos. A weaver of
morphisms —isn’t that enough of a definition?

accept this definition is to allow the distinction between the human
and the non-human to lapse: non-human metamorphosis always was a
self-reflexive projection of the human. It is to see that the
non-human situation of medial contingency remains a real allegory of
the human, and that this allegory has now been heightened by the
proliferation of scientific powers and informatic technologies.
Transcendence without a contrary: or, society is maintained only
through communication; we communicate only through media; therefore,
we maintain without surpassing the medial contingencies of the
construction of the human —and narrative systems perform this
maintenance. The human is in the delegation itself, in the pass, in
the sending, in the continuous exchange of forms, and this status is
distributable to everything we touch or that touches us: human nature
is the set of its delegates and its representatives, its figures and
its messengers. In this post-Darwinian world, the human form is as
unknown to us as the nonhuman; thus, it is better to speak of
(x)-morphism instead of becoming indignant when humans are treated as
nonhumans or vice versa.

metamorphic transformations of bodies —both fictive and artefactual
mixings of the human and the nonhuman— recur from archaic to
contemporary times, taking daemonic shapes ranging from the magical
to the technological. Textual metamorphs and technoscientific
quasi-objects are both mediating transformers performing sociomythic
sorting operations, negotiating the relations not of heaven and
earth, but of nature and society. Quasi-objects, then, participate in
a continuous production of ancient and current cultural mediators
whose common attribute is a propensity to the metamorphic
transformation of given and normative forms. Viewed through the lens
of Latour’s network concepts, the recursive imageries of literary
metamorphoses resonate with the operational evolutions, the mutations
and occasional catastrophes, of natural and social systems.

one allows the extension of sociality beyond human conversations to
the communications of other living things —all of whom signal to
their own in order to survive, and to the nonliving things that get
swept up and redefined by natural

social systems, then life and its evolution, including the emergence
and networking of minds and societies across the living spectrum, is
as much a social as a natural phenomenon. So neither nature nor
society could remain in being without the translational mediations
that course between them: All durability, all solidity, all
permanence will have to be paid for by its mediators.

the real and the daemonic are observed to emerge and merge in both
technological and narrative constructions, classical human persons
—the extra-environmental essences of selves, souls maintained by
ideal bodily stabilities— become at once nonmodern and
posthumanist, relativized actors performing operational functions and
metamorphic transformations within natural/social networks and
systems. This is not a demotion of the human but an elevation of the
nonhuman into proper discursive representation.


of the controversial issues in the discourse on climate change is the
problem of material or bodily agency. Until recently, agency has been
the privilege of human consciousness. We have seen ourselves as being
ontologically different from nature, as spirit from matter. Such an
ontological distinction justified people to use nature as a resource
to satisfy their desires. Earth was nothing more than a mere
background for human actions and prosperity; however, global warming
and climate change, which has grown bad enough to threaten our very
existence, has forced us to acknowledge that earth is agential in its
own right. What is more alive and active than such a global
catastrophe? If we bear in mind the current ecological crisis, then
we must devise a new theory of agency for recognizing the active role
of nonhumans.

is one thing to decouple agency from consciousness; it is quite
another to decouple agency from intentionality. We have to
acknowledge that there is a nonconscious form of intentionality.
Latour’s mistake is in imagining intentionality in terms of
consciousness. More original than our conscious intentionality is
bodily intentionality that joins us to the world in our relationship
with things around us. The body itself is intentional in that it
directs at and affects others, associating or dissociating with them.
At the background of conscious intentionality lies bodily
intentionality. How can we think of animism without such corporeal

body is not inert matter but is the power to affect others and to be
affected by them. Without such affectivity, a body would not have any
agency (the power to act). To act is to “do” things. We should
not confuse “do” with “function. If function is neutral and
mechanical, then doing implies some form of desire, purpose, and
intentionality. Spinoza named it conatus—an endeavor to persist in
its being, whether human or nonhuman. But the agency should be
decoupled from the criteria of intentionality, subjectivity, and
freewill. To prevent such a human monopoly of agency, he proposed
that agency is not a given quality but is that which modifies other
actors through the course of action. We should not ask whether agency
is human or nonhuman. Such a question is not only irrelevant but also
detrimental to our understanding of the exact nature of the agency.
An attempt to explain agency in conjunction with intentionality is to
presuppose the problem solved. It is necessary to think we do not
know anything and to exclude all human preconceptions and start from
ignorance. Even to imagine an intention behind a phenomenon
interferes with our otherwise neutral and indifferent investigation.
It seems that we have no reason to disprove his plea to decouple
agency from intentionality. The only problem is that he betrays his
methodological demand to begin our investigation without
preconception. Agency, which can be defined as the body’s capacity
to affect or modify other bodies, neither distinguishes humans from
nonhumans nor is in need of intentionality for its action.

change demonstrates that the earth, which we defined as inert, is
more alive than anything else. What agent is more animated,
energetic, and unpredictable than, global warming, and sea level
rise? The Earth is quaking! Now it has a subject once again. The
agentic power of the earth is an undeniable reality, not a
theoretical construction. We hit upon the Real of the earth really
hard. The earth, which humans believed they de-animated and tamed, is
animated again with more force than before. Animism is, then, not
just an alternative to the modern worldview but is the only
legitimate theory that can explain a phenomenon such as earthquakes.

is a worldview that does not discriminate between animate and
inanimate matter. We could define animism as a belief in personal
souls animating even what we call inanimate bodies. All bodies,
whether human or nonhuman, have life and will. Trought embracing such
a vital vision of nature, we intend to substitute the concept of
“thing” with “thing-power”: because things have propensities
or tendencies of their own. They do not passively succumb to human
desire for control but resist subjugation. Animals, plants, and
stones are bodies as energetic and intentional as humans, though in
different ways. Whether human or nonhuman, animate or inanimate, all
bodies endeavor to preserve their being.

bodies, humans or nonhumans, are conatus in their essence. Conatus
signifies the power of the body to act alone or in conjunction with
other things to persist in its being. All bodies with capacities to
affect or be affected tend to associate with or disassociate from one
another to increase and intensify their conatus Such embodied
intention is not very different from the concept of plant and animal
souls: a plant has a vegetative soul and an animal a sensitive soul.
Their souls aspire to grow and propagate.

all bodies do, affecting and being affected in alliance with others,
has meaning in that it concerns their survival or extinction. Life or
death is inseparable from their agency: the body with more
connections to other bodies is more real and agentic than bodies with
fewer connections or assemblages. The body is not an entity but a
process of becoming more or less effective. As there is no individual
body without assembly, so there is no assembly without the individual
body. The body is not self-enclosed but porous and dynamic, and its
boundaries can be crossed.

do not know how to account for the animism present in an inorganic
matter such as stones and machines. However, we need to take note
that there is a significant difference in material intentionality
between stones and animals. Although all bodies without exception
equally strive to exist, there is a broad spectrum of differences in
their conatus, and they are singular in their ways.

can there be animism without bodily intentionality?

intentionality is one of many hybrids. The body is not only animated
but intentional as well. It would be unthinkable to envisage animism
without corporal struggles. Isn’t it enough to dehumanize agency by
decoupling it from consciousness? We do not need to decouple animism
from intentionality: to do so would be to conflate it with mechanism.