︎ Omnia per Omnia [anything by anything]

February 15, 2022

Generally speaking, the concept of ‘gender’ inherited from the legacy of western Humanism is dualistic, hierarchical, and human-centric. Mind/body, reason/emotions, human/animal, male/female, freedom/slavery – this conceptual network of binaries reflects the basic design and dynamics of mastery of superior over inferior, and essential over instrumental. Human- centrism grounds its ethical claims in the human capacities for reason, autonomy, impartiality, and universality, which are then used as justifications for mastery, stewardship, and/or management of nonhumans who are considered to lack these capabilities. In this presentation, I outline and explore three heuristic scenarios that provide an opportunity for theoretical provocation about the limits of human-centrism for conceptualizing gender. In the first humanistic schema, humans are conceptualized as being in the loop of control, justifying mastery and superiority over those who are incapable of reaching full potential; gender is defined by the ontological superiority of humans over non-humans and institutionalized in the differences between male and female. The second scenario of the human on the loop characterizes contemporary critical posthumanisms that seek to deprioritize human-centrism and underscore compatibilities between human animals, nonhuman animals, and machines; gender is re-coded as material, fluid, and multiple and is made to bridge divides between human and non-human. While the relationality of “on the loop” approaches are appealing, they do not completely overturn anthropocentrism altogether and tend to retain normative assumptions about the special status of humans in relation to nonhumans. The task of conceptualizing non-anthropocentrism would fall to a distinct third model of “human out of the loop” in which human control would be deprioritized and nonhuman rationales would be prioritized. In this scenario characteristic of more speculative versions of posthumanism, the notion of gender is rendered alien (‘xeno’), going beyond (and before) the horizon of the human, disconnected from and independent of any human-centrism. This threefold schema can be insightful in identifying limitations of human-centric/humanistic conceptions of gender, and in potentially pushing conceptual boundaries about how to re-deploy concepts of gender beyond anthropocentrism. In the age of Neural Networks and Data what could speculative architecture be? This question seems to be all the more urgent since the penetration of automated algorithms in society and cities is proceeding at fast pace and under the controversial paradigm of efficiency. The lecture questions such assumptions by tackling the subject of computational architecture from two different points of view. First, a comparison between digital and analogue computing and its relevance in design processes provides new grounds from which to articulate a possible speculative position for architecture. Secondly, the current relation between new computational methods – particularly Neural Networks – and architecture is an unbalanced one and favours the former over the latter. Some key examples from the history of architecture will be discusses to show that radical new ideas in design emerged from an exchange between technological innovations and architectural ideas; architecturalising computation will be as important as implementing new algorithmic procedures.

(Roberto Bottazzi)