Post-Anthropocentric Temporalities and Science Fiction Photobooks in Brazil

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Abstract

The histories of the science fiction genre and still photography have rarely intertwined in an explicit way, especially in Latin America where both photographic practice and criticism has tended to center on the role of the medium in the politics of memory, the use of photography in ethnographic articulations of racial difference, and the function of photographic archives in the construction of national and transnational identities. And yet, in the context of anthropogenic climate change, a growing number of photographers are using visual and narrative tropes borrowed from science fiction in an attempt to both conceptualize the vast temporal scope and ecological complexity of the current global crisis and to imagine a future after the extinction of the human species. In Latin America, the form of the book has become a particularly important vehicle for photographic interventions into imaginaries of the ecological crisis that have been dominated by voices emanated from the global North. A growing number of photographers in Brazil are using the photobook to explore photography’s historical implication in constructing and policing dominant conceptions of the human (as separate from and dominant over nature) that lie at the heart of the current crisis. One of the most conceptually complex texts to emerge from the current wave of photobook publications in Brazil is Intergalático (2014) by Guilherme Gerais, a series of photographic images and illustrations that borrows narrative elements from science fiction conventions and structural organizing principles from board game design. Intergalático articulates a post-anthropocentric perspective both through its deployment of science fiction tropes and through the modes of cognitive and corporeal engagement it demands of its reader.

The aim of this article is to analyze the connection between these thematic and formal dimensions of Intergalático as a way of exploring the post-anthropocentric affordances of the medium. The photobook plays an unexpected role in the articulation of post-anthropocentrism. The history of the form would seem to be bound up with attempts to “humanize” photography by incorporating it into the categories and periodizations of art history by presenting the work of individual photographer-artists as legitimate and discreet objects of study available to be bought and sold as commodities. The history of the photobook could be considered to constitute a blockage to Joanna Zylinska’s concept of photographic mediations as assemblages between human and nonhuman economic, social, and technological forces that enable us “to create, here and now, a vision of a world which is not human (i.e. which is not of or for the human)” (2016). However, Intergalático, through its highly self-conscious interrogation of the affordances of the form, provides a model for how the photobook can be used as a powerful vehicle for the development of post-anthropocentric imaginaries. Paying particularly close attention to the complex temporalities enacted by the interaction between the readerly performance of the text and the science fiction tropes, I argue that the book stages a critical intervention into the distinctions between life and nonlife that undergird contemporary distributions of power in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-74
Number of pages22
JournalParadoxa
Volume30
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Material Texts

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