Beyond Human

We are hurtling down the “highway to climate hell,” warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres in November 2022. The imperial lifestyle of the fossil fuel age is literally driving us towards a brick wall. Two degrees. Let’s say four. Or so much more that the calculation models collapse and a world emerges that we cannot even imagine? To escape the impending doom, neither a "Klimaticket" nor flight shame are going to suffice.

Following the proposal by theorist Frédéric Neyrat, we are no longer in the Anthropocene but in the Alienocene. Neyrat’s samenamed journal celebrates our unfamiliarity with our surroundings. It is dedicated to relations between the human and inhuman and sympathizes with aliens from outer space and outernationalists on our planet. We are living in a world where the organic and synthetic are merging, where military-trained eagles hunt drones and steaks come from the lab.

Must we transform radically in order to have a future? For sure, we need to speak about the climate crisis under capitalist conditions, but also about those ominous parallels between colonial and ecological divisions of the world into a high and low. The thereby supposedly legitimized exploitative relationships correspond to the distinction between nature worthy of protection (national parks or domestic pets) and nature without rights (fracking soils or cattle for slaughter). Perhaps what we need is not just a “decolonial ecology” but a hitherto unimagined vision of a world populated by intelligences that dwell not only in human brains and digital machines but also in “thinking forests” or an “Internet of animals.”

At donaufestival 2023, some artistic intelligences make suggestions to this effect: guitarist Daniel Bachman’s album Almanac Behind, presented as a film in the festival, fuses folk improvisations with field recordings of winter storms and bushfires, interrupted by reports from a local weather radio station. Kim Noble slips into a father role for a maggot in his comedic outsider performance. Eglė Budvytytė’s video installation Songs from the Compost frames mutated body images in forest and dune landscapes. The collective DISNOVATION.ORG devises a hybrid “Bestiary of the Anthropocene” and develops tools for a society that has bid farewell to the fetish of growth. The pontiffs of Toxic Temple celebrate plastic-digesting bacteria and worship nuclear waste.

It is in such beyond human scenarios that we find the contours of an ecological coexistence of the different. Perhaps this could be the successor of the depoliticizing rhetoric about saving humanity – as if it existed without conflict and diversity.

Looking forward to an exciting festival and a being-together of us all,

Thomas Edlinger
donaufestival artistic director

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