Since the late eighties, posthumanism is gaining ground both in philosophy (Harraway 1989, Halberstam and Livingstone 1995 and Hayles 1999) and in art (see for example the artistic practice of Stelarc (1980), Kac (2000) and (2002) and Orlan (1990). Posthumanism rethinks the definition of the human and its central position in the world. It is concerned with issues related to the impact of bio- and digital technology on body, mind, culture, and epistemology. Whereas posthumanism is now part of a mainstream debate within the humanities, only recently, performance theory has started to study the implications of posthumanism on the contemporary stage (Perniola 2004, Laermans 2008 and Lepecki 2011). This research focuses on the young tradition of critical posthumanism (Simon 2003; Agamben 2004; Miccoli 2009 and Wolfe 2010) and how these critical philosophical perspectives are reflected in the 'philosophical performances' of Belgian theatre maker and visual artist Kris Verdonck, as well as in the work of other contemporary theatre artists such as he Mette Ingvartsen, Andros Zins-Browne, Christian Rizzo and Romeo Castellucci. The philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, which utters a strong critique on humanism, capitalism and contemporary politics, will be the theoretical guideline to develop an analysis of the relation between performer and object and art and science. Doing so, this research inscribes itself in the young discipline of performance philosophy.
In his seminal work Postdramatic Theatre (2006) the German theatre scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann announces this paradigm shift when he points at an evolution towards a new status of objects in contemporary, postdramatic theatre and of the body as “controllable and selectable apparatus” (165). The posthuman paradigm shift that occurs today in the performing arts recalls Michel Foucault’s prophesy in Les Mots et les choses: “L’homme est une invention dont l’archéologie de notre pensée montre aisément la date récente. Et peut-être la fin prochaine.” (398) It is this paradigm towards what I call a critical posthuman aesthetic that lies at the heart of this research project.