Madison Hames MA Critical Studies Thesis 2021
The Intelligence of Things: Twenty-first-century Omens, Time-eating Matter, and the Subtle Call of Plastic
This thesis gives philosophical expression to the knowledge, intelligence, and agency of objects as a means of making non-human collaborators to think with as we combat the multiple crises of the Anthropocene. Drawing from the chemical philosophies of Isabelle Stengers and Gay Hawkins, it considers the ways in which intelligence is encoded into the molecular composition of materials, giving rise to a sort of ontological intelligence and agential capacity of things. Influenced by Deleuze, Mathew Fuller, Olga Guironova, and Harold Bloom, this thesis explores how this intelligence is interlocked with ethico-aesthetics, wherein the object uses aesthetics as a communication technology, typically by initiating embodied sensations and feeling in what/whoever is encountering it. As a framework for this thingly communication, this thesis suggests a reimagination and revitalization of the historical human practice of interpreting omens, wherein the omen is desacralized and reframed as an ontologically intelligent thing. Finally, this thesis suggests that plastic, one of the most pressing issues of the Anthropocene, is an apt material to interpret for its inherent ability to perform spatio-tempophagy, or space-time compression.