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Of human birds and living rocks : Remaking aesthetics for post-human worlds
Deborah Dixon, Harriet Hawkins and Elizabeth Straughan Dialogues in Human Geography 2012 2: 249 DOI: 10.1177/2043820612468692 The online version of this article can be found at: /content/2/3/249

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Article
Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) 249270 The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/2043820612468692 dhg.sagepub.com

Of human birds and living rocks: Remaking aesthetics for post-human worlds
Deborah Dixon
University of Glasgow, UK

Harriet Hawkins
Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Elizabeth Straughan
University of Glasgow, UK

Abstract Geographers have long pondered post-human worlds. And yet, whilst such analyses have explored the natural and physical sciences as a means of articulating the relationalities and commonalities that span species and kingdoms, an explicit consideration of the aesthetic has been largely absent. To a degree, this is because the aesthetic has been understood as a humanist remain. Here, we want to make a stronger claim for the value of the aesthetic as a stepping off point for thinking through post-human geographies. We begin by acknowledging a productive tension within Kantian and post-Kantian accounts of sense-making: that is, a series of questions that speak directly to the post-human have been raised by dwelling upon how the aesthetic can be related to bodily needs and desires, as well as a feeling that emerges from the exercise of judgement. Then, we make the argument that, as a means of developing our aesthetic sensibility, geography can usefully further its engagement with art theory and practice. This leads us to ground our own exploration of the post-human in a discussion of two projects created by artist Perdita Phillips. Moving from a consideration of bowerbirds in the savanna to thrombolites in a saline lake, and from evolutionary biology to a Deleuzo -Guattarian geophilosophy, we ask, where is the artistry? Keywords aesthetics, art, biology, post-humanism, sense-making

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Corresponding author: Deborah Dixon, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, East Quadrangle, University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK. Email: Deborah.Dixon@glasgow.ac.uk

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250
Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand; A shape with lion body and the head of a man, A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming (1921)

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) the modern decree that everything is to be understood in departure from the human and by referring it back to the human (2004: n.p.) including, we might add, the nature of humanity itself. Geographers have, of course, considered this same prospect numerous times, gradually moving, we would suggest, from a preoccupation with the shards of analytic categorisation made brittle by the crisis of representation, and a corresponding concern as to what the human as critical inquirer is considered to encompass and be capable of doing, toward a more explicit questioning of how, in the shift in thought that moves from being to becoming, we go forth in the world to think and speak in terms of things and their qualities. And so geography has been witness to a number of attempts to map a post-human disciplinary landscape of theoretical allegiances, figurings, concepts, techniques and objects of analysis (Braun, 2004; Johnston, 2008; Panelli, 2010) as well as the import of these for the traditional repertoire of geography, such as landscape (Whatmore and Hinchliffe, 2010), site (Marston et al., 2005), scale (Bingham, 2006) and borders (Sundberg, 2011). Importantly, there has also emerged an effort to delineate how a geographic sensibility can in turn illuminate and even inflect our framing of the post-human via a dwelling upon the where of encounter (Hinchliffe, 2010), for example, as well as the geographies of assemblages (Allen, 2011). Yet, amidst this work a critical reflection upon, and deployment of, the aesthetic has been largely absent. To an extent, this is because the aesthetic, whilst emerging in geography as a complex meditation upon the nature of existence within what were wide-ranging humanist debates (see Tuans, 1989 review), became decried, along with this paradigm, as a paean to a narcissistic individualism (e.g. Gregory, 1981). Specifically, for many humanistic geographers as well as their critics, the aesthetic became both a personal (sensuous and emotional as well as perceptive and cognitive) experience of landscape (e.g. Edensor, 2005), and the set of conventions that shape these experiences (Duncan and Duncan, 2004). Accordingly, geographic work on landscape has tended to deploy the aesthetic as a being-in-the-world characterised by a

Introduction
Yeats visionary poem, written in the aftermath of the Great War, evokes images of compounding chaos and revolution as one mode of living, based around science, technology and democracy, gives way to one that has so far remained submerged, alien. His allegorical figures the bird in flight and the wakening stone inhabit these differing modes and, for Yeats, meet each other with mutual incomprehensibility. The writer and we as his audience are of the old order; encountering a blank and pitiless visage, we wonder, what rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? In this paper we take on board similar figures the human bird and the living rock in order to talk about change and transformation, in the sense of both increasing uncertainty as to what the world is and the place of such figures within it, but also how to then think about and articulate the modes of relationality that bind and cleave. Where Yeats describes two inhospitable ways of living, each spiralling away from the other, we want to use these figures as signposts for an exploration of the fractures and fissions, resonances and divergences, that make up what has been termed the post-human. The post prefix here, as elsewhere, denotes an ontic and epistemic, as well as semantic, uncertainty; most significantly for our purposes, post can refer to what Welsch calls a radical break with

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Dixon et al. dynamic resolution, a co-ordination and a harnessing of the tensions within experience, a fieldevent incorporating horizons of feeling, the objects of sense, and the foci of consciousness (Foster, citing Dewey, 1998: 336). Certainly, one of the distinguishing marks brought into play as a means of distancing the more recent more-than-representational literature from an earlier humanistic geography has been a rejection of the latters emphasis upon the individual human being as sense-making (e.g. Wylie, 2006). Notwithstanding the unfortunate simplification of a humanistic geography per se (Pickles, 1986), what has aided such a rendering, as we go on to flesh out below, is a broader scale, inter-disciplinary understanding of the aesthetic as derived from a Kantian celebration of human rationality, an understanding that has elided the liveliness of the aesthetic within Kants philosophies. There are a number of ways in which the aesthetic can be enlivened, but in this paper we work from within our own fields of cultural geography and art theory and practice, fields that, as we hope will become clear, share a considerable Kantian legacy. Whilst we make no claim to fully inhabit Kants texts, and this is by no means a paper about Kants philosophies, this liveliness, we go on to argue, can be usefully acknowledged as geographers proceed to work through to call into being, one might say the post-human. Indeed, its analytic value, we suggest, lies not in any sense of resolution as to what sense making is or should be, or what is appropriately human or not, but rather in the invitation to thought. And in a suitably post-Kantian framing, such thought is a thoroughly visceral affair. As Ruddick describes it, thought does not proceed outwards from the cogito, nor is it inscribed in transcendent principles: it is a social act, emerging in combination (2010: 28). What provokes such a disturbance? For Deleuze, it is the encounter with the monstrous other, an as yet unthought figure the human bird, the living rock that heralds unpredictability and change. Such encounters have the potential for the creation of new, unique events and entities, but more often herald the return to relatively redundant orders and practices. We begin, then, by acknowledging a productive tension within Kantian and post-Kantian accounts

251 of sense-making: that is, we delineate the broad contours of a debate that takes to task the aesthetic as related to the exercise of human judgement, but also (not necessarily human) corporeal needs and desires. Next, we make the argument that, as a means of developing an aesthetic sensibility, geography can usefully further its engagement with art theory and practice. This leads us to ground our own exploration of the binding and cleaving, inclusions and thresholds proffered by post-humanism in a discussion of two projects created by artist Perdita Phillips. The first project dwells upon a Darwinian framing of bowerbirds as all too human in their artistry, whilst the second considers the aesthetic capacities inhering in the lithic, as well as the organic, via a consideration of living rocks, or thrombolites.

Kantian aesthetics: between and betwixt


Without delving too deeply into Kants oeuvre, it is necessary to provide an initial context here in order to place the discussion of aesthetics that follows. That is, in Kants work we find a number of iterations of the aesthetic insofar as he is engaged with both an empiricist tradition, exemplified in the writings of Hume and Burke, for whom aesthetics were expressions of subjective feeling without cognitive content, and a rationalist tradition, represented by figures such as Baumgarten, for whom aesthetics were based on the cognitive assessment of an object to have a particular property, thus making universal claims concerning the nature of those objects possible. In post-Kantian aesthetic critiques, we can discern the same preoccupation with this tension, often expressed in the drawing of a marked distinction between, on the one hand, an aesthetics that is rooted in a sensuous, bodily nature, and which has become associated with both individuality and uniqueness, and, on the other hand, an aesthetics that offers the opportunity for thinking through how judgement can become a means of introducing new concepts that reference both an external nature and an interior human nature. In Kants so-called first critique, from his Critique of Pure Reason (1996[1787]), the aesthetic is a science of all principles of sensuousness. He

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252 later describes this in his Critique of Judgement (1987[1790]) as a liking that is conditioned pathologically by stimuli and that holds for non-rational animals too, gratifying bodily needs and desires (Kant, 1987[1790]: 51, 52). Thus, aesthetics is based on feeling, as opposed to a perception such as the apprehension of the colour of an entity. For Kant, in referring to the domain of sensibility, there is a transcendental aesthetic or a priori forms of sensibility of space and time that structure these sensations of experience, as well as an empirical aesthetic that refers to various sensations that populate the sensible, such as the sounds, tastes and smells that we encounter. The Critique of Judgement (1987 [1790]) also, however, contains a three-fold aesthetic of the agreeable, of beauty (or taste), and of the sublime articulated around the notion of judgement. Here, Kant outlines four moments common to the beautiful and the sublime. These are a disinterested pleasure, universal recognition, a purposivelessness and a sense of the pleasure in the object as necessary and exemplary. Importantly, in the Critique of Judgement, Kant describes a pleasure, felt in beholding the beautiful, that one cannot ascribe to the object in and of itself (see e.g. Section 1). Such pleasure unfolds from an appreciation of how these faculties provide for the conditions of a systematic (and hence universally human) judgement of something as beautiful; it must be stressed, however, that such a law-like play is not in and of itself subject to the operation of a particular law or rule. It is with this caveat that the term free is applied. The play of the imagination and understanding are also integral to Kantian considerations of the sublime, wherein the human power of reason is experienced as superior as a super-sensible faculty to a meaningless nature specifically (see especially Sections 23 and 28). Given the disciplines traditional focus upon humanenvironment relationships, it is not surprising to find that it is the sublime, and particularly the dynamic sublime, that has proven particularly appealing to geographers. Here, the formlessness, or boundedlessness, of phenomena such as volcanoes and earthquakes evoke a wonder and awe that, whilst suggesting a physical powerlessness, and proposing the apparent limits of reason, nevertheless, when perceived as such, in turn

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) evidence the superiority of understanding over and against imagination and sensuous experience (Baker and Twidale, 1991). This articulation of aesthetics as, on the one hand, related to bodily needs and desires and, on the other, as a feeling that emerges from the exercise of judgement, is to catch Kantian aesthetics, as a number of post-Kantian theorists have noted, between two irreducible domains (Deleuze, 1994). That is, there is the theory of the sensible, which engages embodied, sensuous experience but is not confined to a human corporeality, and the theory of the beautiful and the sublime, which, in Deleuzes words, deals with the reality of the real insofar as it is thought (1994: 68 [emphasis added]) and, in Kantian terms at least, was often understood as the preserve of the human. Certainly, Kants legacy has often been summarised as a celebration of human rationality, predicated upon the firm rejection of a nature in and for itself. In disciplinary terms, the most direct approach taken to Kants thinking remains, as Livingstone and Harrison (1981) noted over 30 years ago, his work on physical geography (see more recently Elden, 2009; Elden and Mendieta, 2011). Yet, they go on to argue, there is no doubting a Kantian legacy within humanistic philosophies more broadly. And within some strands of humanistic geography, we can discern a Kantian, epistemic structuring of the world by the human subject. Wrights (1947) geosophic idealism, for example, pivots on outside working, structures and orders and the most fascinating terra incognita of all . . . those that lie within the minds and hearts of men (1947: 15). In similar vein, Lowenthal (1961) expands upon landscape by way of a question over the relation between the world outside and the pictures within our heads. More specifically, landscape is the joint product of sensory material and structures of consciousness, which actively organize the continued flux of fragmentary impressions and interprets them by its own forms of understanding (Livingstone and Harrison, 1981: 366). In recent years, we find a continuation of this human-centred approach to a geographical treatment of the aesthetic, with particular attention to the sublime, in work on the human perception of the forms of animals and vegetables (Davies, 2010; Lorimer, 2007; Roe, 2006), as well as the

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Dixon et al. politics of shock and awe (Anderson, 2010), rubbish (Crang, 2010) and theorisations of politics more generally (Dikec , 2012). Small wonder, then, that some, including those inspired by a speculative realism, to use a loose term, have made the argument that, in light of such a legacy, a humanmindsocial (over and against a non-humanbodynature) nexus of thought has characterised all manner of debates on the human environment relationship (Anderson and Harrison, 2010; Hinchliffe et al., 2005). And as we note in the following section, that such dichotomous modes of thought have been challenged by the emergence of a post-humanistic geography. What is yet missing from such debates, we want to emphasise, is a more thorough engagement with post-Kantian aesthetics, particularly as manifest through the work of Deleuze, for whom the focus is the productive potential of Kants failure to escape epistemological structures that foreground the human.

253 psychoanalytic, behavioural and neurobiological literatures, geographers have inquired as to whether or not there is indeed such a sharp disjuncture to be had. This has helped foster speculation on how, for example, an emphasis upon the precognitive being in the world of humans can be leveraged into a decentring of an enlightenment figuring of the human as master of all he surveys (Bear and Eden, 2011; Johnston, 2008). Though often presented as an effort to think through the intersectionalities of the lifeworlds of seemingly autonomous animals a being with that folds in the inanimate, animate, sentient, speaking, thinking (Simpson, 2009) such a project has been more usefully specified as a means of interrogating the spacings therein, brought to light via tropes such as witnessing (Dewsbury, 2003), solicitation (McCormack, 2003) and singularity (Harrison, 2011). What this specification allows for is a further interrogation of what the pre- in precognitive implies and disallows in our understanding of sense and sensibility. It has also become manifest in research that explores how the capacity for communication as in indicative, rather than simply vocal can itself be dehumanised. There is work, for example, that deploys Latours actor network theory (as well as other bodies of thought) as a means of thinking through how the non-human can speak within an environmental politics, such that its excessiveness understood here as the capacity to surprise in the face of both science and politics is acknowledged (Hinchliffe, 2008; Hinchliffe et al., 2005). And geographers have identified Derridas concept of the trace as a means of thinking through language as iteration, or the marking of difference, that takes place via, for example, genetic coding and territoriality as well as friendship (Bingham, 2006). Alternatively, questions have revolved around whether or not certain capacities such as suffering (Lorimer, 2010), vulnerability (Harrison, 2008) or, more commonly, creativity (Gandy, 2008) are to be accorded the status of a fundamental human/ non-human distinction, overshadowing any mere physiological or metabolic commonalities, or the transfer of energy and matter between entities. We find some geographers, for example, prompted by

Post-human sublimations
Making space for the invitation to thought proffered by Kantian and post-Kantian aesthetics, we suggest, allows for a rather different line of questioning to emerge around the post-human than has so far been manifest within geography. One particularly visible framing of a post-human research agenda has come from a wide-ranging effort to think how the animal question illuminates the manner in which humans have been deemed to exist or, rather, are able to apprehend their own and others existence as well as related spatial qualities rather than simply be, to use a stark, Heideggerian framing (see, e.g. Anderson, 2003, on this divisioning). Heideggers animal question, of course, was also a rethinking of Kant: he proceeded to place the worldlessness of stone at one end of a spectrum, and the world-forming nature of humans at the other, with animals somewhere in the middle, each sorted along a plane of equivalence derived from what is considered to be a uniquely human logos (1995: 274). Within the geographic discipline, it is the organic realm, however, that has garnered attention; utilising perspectives drawn from philosophy and critical theory, as well as a series of

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254 Agambens discussion of bare life, raising questions around the status of the essentially human power of poiesis; that is, the creative act and its pure potentiality (Thrift, 2004). By way of contrast, we can also see a number of studies (inspiring but not confined to geographers) that seek to push the envelope in this regard, emphasising how, for example, bacteria can be considered inventive, as Hird puts it, by virtue of their originary role in major forms of metabolism, multicellularity, nanotechnology, metallurgy, sensory and locomotive apparatuses (such as the wheel), reproductive strategies and community organization, light detection, alcohol, gas and mineral conversion, hypersex, and death (2010: 3637). Conversely, Dixon (2009) ponders the political efficacy of the semi-living, in the form of lab-grown, cellular assemblages. Small wonder that some have turned this question around to ask how and with what effect does the presumption of such inalienable differences justify and legitimise as natural a calculated, managed approach to the purportedly non-human (Greenhough and Roe, 2010; Riley, 2010). Some have, however, delved more deeply into the cleaving and binding of the organic and the inorganic as part and parcel of this broader rethinking of the human. Such efforts draw on a number of impulses not all compatible by any means including, for example, Serres writings on the marking of the earth by flood (Clark, 2010), Meillassouxs evocation of the great outdoors (Saldanha, 2009), and a Deleuzian take on the molecular (Dewsbury, 2011). For some, a possible groundwork for this, it seems, is a sense of the evolutionary character of the human, an at once microscopic analytic that binds the animate and the inanimate over geologic, even cosmic, time-scales. Protevi (2010a, n.p.), for example, speculates as to the working of a genetic phenomenology, wherein
. . . we have to show how single-celled organisms generate their own concrete space and time (a biological or metabolic transcendental aesthetic) as well as display sense-making . . . AND how this develops along the evolutionary time scale into the potentials for what will develop along the human developmental time scale, that is, genetic

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3)


phenomenology as the constitution of corporeal space-time and corporeal know how, from embryo to adult. And then finally we can trace the synchronic transformation of corporeal space-time and categories/ideas into science/human high reason.

For others, such a framing yet retains an anthropomorphism, however, insofar as their dwelling upon increased complexification speaks to a vitalism, the analytic co-ordinates of which revolve around some as yet un-acknowledged metaphysical pivot. And so for Woodward (2010), for example, the capacity to affect and be affected also directs attention beyond agency towards a welter of metabolic processes that undergird what we consider to be life. Writing on the unicellular bacteria Volvox, Woodward notes how these organisms internalise their environment, and display a movement, orientation and so on; but, there is no necessary drive towards complexity. In similar vein, Clark (2011: 24) ponders what happens, in a post-Kantian world, when biology is removed from its yoking to the evolution of a human expressivity, and instead is allowed to persist otherwise? For such bodies also touch and are touched by an Earth that
bears the trace of an infinity that is palpably not of this world, one that is extra-terrestrial in a material rather than an ethereal or otherworldly sense: an exorbitance that no form of reciprocity, no contract, no economy on this spherical planet or anywhere else will ever square up (Clark, 2010: 8).

Such speculation disavows post-humanism as a Latourian redistribution of agency, resonating instead with Harrisons (2008) cautious questioning of what is the remainder to just such an actionorientated concept, so often ranged alongside the capacities of intentionality, knowing, cognition and so on. To somewhat presumptuously sum up such a disparate body of literature, whilst the objects of analysis that enter our research under the rubric of the post-human continues to expand, there is the increasingly careful querying of what the term post signifies here, whether as a decentring of the human and/or the tracing of an anthropomorphism. And it is in reference to this body of work, we

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Dixon et al. suggest, that a more explicit engagement with aesthetics can be of value insofar as it enables a thinking through of how and with what import we formulate sense making.

255 reflects upon his own critiques of Husserls lifeworld wherein consciousness bestows meaning upon experiential essences, thus reaffirming the presence of a transcendental ego and by way of a response begins to lay out the chiasm. This is an inter-twining, or crossing, that enables what he calls a sensate body possessing an art of interrogating the sensible according to its own wishes, an inspired exegesis (1968[1964]: 135). For Whitehead, Kants aesthetics are marked, like the rest of his philosophy, by an excessive cognitivism, this despite, he suggests, the generative possibilities that Kant affords to time. In contrast, Whiteheads philosophy of organisms is, he claims in Adventures of Ideas (1967[1933]), an inversion of this. If, for Kant, the world emerges from the subject, then, for Whitehead, the subject emerges from the world: there is, thus, no way of knowing the world extra-experientially. As opposed to the subsequent, cognitive organisation of a Kantian rabble of the senses, aesthetics becomes the mark of our concern for the world, and for entities in the world (1967[1933]: 176). We are reminded by Whitehead to engage with feeling our bodies, as well as feeling with our bodies. Such a rewiring of Kants sensible data into an immanent being, as opposed to the building blocks for a transcendent, conceptual representation, lays the groundwork for the continuities that Whitehead comes to identify between the two forms of Kants aesthetics. That is, for Whitehead, aesthetics become understood as the building of intensity that encompasses, as Shaviro observes, the most rudimentary pulses of emotion (like the vibrations of subatomic particles). And at the highest end, even God is basically an aesthete (2009: 68). Thus, Whiteheads affect-based account of experience undoes the ontological privilege of being human, extending experience to encompass all subjects, whether they be a dog, a tree, a mushroom, or a grain of sand (Shaviro, 2009: xii). It is, perhaps, in Deleuzes (1984, 1994) confrontation of an enemy that we find the most celebrated reworkings of Kantian aesthetics across both geography and art theory/practice. If the wrenching duality of the two irreducible domains outlined above are to be reworked, Deleuze argues, then one must find the conditions that allow for both an

Post-human aesthetics/aesthetic post-humanisms


We noted above how Kants articulation of the aesthetic as both gratification and judgement has invited a series of interrogations as to the nature, quality and capacities of a putatively human corporeality. Here, we want to reprise some of this work as context again, partially and with necessary brevity before drawing out what we see as a productive engagement with the literatures and practices of art and art theory. We suggest this not because of their purported content, but because these are domains that have long struggled with just such a Kantian legacy, and where aesthetics have been framed with a close attention to the withness and the spacings that mark the post-human. As such, they prompt us to consider what we understand sense making to be, and what the thresholds are to such understandings. They do so, however, not via recourse to the domains of biology, chemistry and physics, or even philosophy, but rather by enrolling these within their own particular terms (and modes) of debate. In order to introduce this work, we begin with an outline of how the invitation proffered by Kants aesthetics has been responded to within social theory more broadly. We find such a revisiting, for example, in Merleau-Pontys (1962[1945]) account of bodily intentionality, and particularly his desire to develop a concept of the mind adequate to this. In his early work (e.g. Phenomenology of Perception), which has had a significant impact on geographers bodily project, to be sure, Merleau-Ponty does not stray far from a Kantian transcendentalism, wherein there is an a priori structuring of a sense of space and time. There is a tendency here, as Harrison notes, to treat sensuality primarily as sensible intuition and in this way regard it in terms of the synthetic work and information yielded to an already constituted and constituting consciousness or will (2008: 429). In later work, though, Merleau-Ponty

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256 image of thought that rests in a biological cognition an organic synthesis and a reworked logic of sensation. Sensation here is neither cerebral nor rational, nor is it harboured in phenomenologys lived body; rather, it is constituted by the vital powers and forces of rhythm and chaos (Deleuze, 2005; see also Groszs, 2008, appraisal of Deleuzes work, to which she brings an Irigarayan sensibility). Such a line of thought has much to contribute to geographic debate in particular, we might suggest, in that Kants space and time (which, according to Hartshorne, 1939, mark out the exceptional domains of geography and history, respectively) are here reworked as in dynamic genesis with the organic. But, what this project also provokes is the question of what precisely is capable of such a sensibility of sense? In other words, if the aesthetic subject is no longer a human being made exceptional by their ability to make sense of the world around them, and, crucially, to recognise their capacity for so doing, then what, if anything, remains of the human? And what does such a subject now encompass? The aesthetic, then, is made to undertake a tremendous amount of work within social theory. And in these theorists explorations of sense making the issues raised speak time and again to the posthuman. But how can the aesthetic become a more visible pivot for dialogues within human geography? For us, there is a productive engagement to be had with the practices and literatures of art and art theory. Given the place of art theory in the study of humanism, and the long tradition of artistic practices as producing and reproducing ideal forms of animals and of nature, it is unsurprising to find that herein lie fecund sites for post-human imaginings (Badmington, 2003; Haraway, 1991; Wolfe, 2009). Indeed, the welter of artworks and exhibitions produced, and their accompanying theorisations, proffer a diverse body of post-humanisms, fuelled in equal parts by an art world enamoured with the social theory outlined above but also by hyperbolic and apocalyptic narratives of both the perceptually vanishing animal and the rise of technology and commercialized science (Lippit, 2000). Such artwork, exhibitions and critique have long been inspired, for example, by the languages and critical practices of deconstruction; that is, a

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) querying of an anthropocentric logos via reference to the mark-making, as well as the affective materialities, of animals (Baker, 2000) They are also increasingly shaped by an artistic search for other onto-stories of the post-human, whether through the forms of the cyborg (Lyons, 2010), the hybrid (Langill, 2009) or the becoming-animal (Thompson, 2005). As Livitt (2007: 230) notes, where once we may have identified a glib quotation of Deluezo Guattarian formulations of becoming-animal, proceeding by way of everything from dance to new media works, there is now a closer examination of the ontological work to be done in the tensions between the desire to animalise and the obligation to preserve (Chaudhuri and Enelow, 2006: 4). Time and again the crux of such works ensues from an (often playful) interrogation of scientific theory, method and practice. In particular, we can find the identification and enrolling of a variety of scientific domains physics, chemistry, biology within Kantian terms, each framed as a series of teleological rather than aesthetic judgements. Contra the liking for the beautiful, and the resolution of the sublime, Kants teleological judgements borrow their principles from reason, resolving concepts of nature according to their seeming purposiveness, that is, the rationality, comprehensibility and systematicity of nature. And so entangling the histories of biological science with a reading of the monstrous in Kant, Kac and Ronell (2007), for example, presents us with a bestiary of extreme life, the inhabitants of which tell a story of alternative evolutions. Such alternatives have reached their apotheosis, perhaps, in recent developments in artscience practices, wherein, and echoing concerns within speculative realism, artists deploy the apparatus and techniques of physics to challenge the inheritance of human-centred thinking through an engagement with dark materialisms, probing the annihilation of matter.1 Though geographers tend to look to the materials and practices of art as a means of grounding dialogues on space, landscape, scale, site and so on, it is important to note that such post-human art projects are very much a negotiation of the with-ness and spacings of encounters, such that we find, for example, alliances drawn through contact with

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Dixon et al. animals as living flesh, and embodied beings, rather than cultural objects. These include a reprise of Derridian ideas that leverage the look of the animal into a rethinking of the human: in the optical and mimetic registers of art, the human I is made in an engagement with the eyes of the animal other, such that nakedness and the animal body of the human come to function as a necessary supplement to human subjectivity (Broglio, 2008). Elsewhere, and in a partial critique of such anthropocentric orientations, a body of artwork has developed that owes much to ethnology and particularly the work of Jacob von Uexku ll. Here, artists seek to encounter (and to re-present) the subjective lifeworlds of the animals. Figuratively moving beyond the human and to expose its boundaries through a different animal phenomenology privilege is accorded the mark of real, with animals engaged by artists in making-processes, often through the marking of surfaces. The resulting co-produced artwork, most often for human consumption, then becomes read as the genuine artifact of the event, of the animals Umwelt (Baker, 2000: 13). We can also find the aporia of Derridean hospitality being employed within bio-art to develop an aesthetics of care, with the artistic creation and hosting of transgenic life forms offered as a consideration of hybridity, but also a response-ability towards and of the non-human other (Aristarkhova, 2010; Baker, 2003). The challenge to anthropomorphism is continued beyond the animal question in those artscience practices whose adoption of the materialities and practices of nano- and genetic technologies serves to draw out the material continuity of human subject and world, specifically challenging the membranes of skin and cell (Zurr and Catts, 2002). In our own work, we partake in dialogues within the fields of both cultural geography and art theory/ practice, dialogues that do not so much share a common ground though both, as we hope has become clear, inherit a great deal of the aesthetic legacy noted above as they proffer ways of framing a post-humanism. And so, whilst we go on to flesh out this topic via reference to a particular set of what can be called artworks, each of which can be firmly located in the post-human art world outlined above, we want to emphasise that this is not accomplished

257 via the finding of geography within art, or, to turn this around, the making art of geographic debate. That is, we appreciate the differential points of entry, and lines of inquiry, that become available when we use artistic practices as a stepping off point for thinking about aesthetics as a field of knowledge that enables us to reflect and ask questions about post-humanism. The particular works we explore in the following section are, appropriately then, by artist cum geographer Perdita Phillips, whose mediums are primarily installation art, sculpture, drawing, photography and sound, and whose projects turn time and again toward the place of the human over and against both animals and minerals. The first work we engage is entitled Green, Grey or Dull Silver (20072008) and consists of a series of in the field interactions with male specimens of the Great Bowerbird, specifically observation of their collection and arrangement of objects in their display space, and the vocalisations performed as part of their mating displays as well as installations, commentaries, photographs and sketches. The second is entitled The Sixth Shore (20092012). Here, layered sonic landscapes are imagined and realised, including the sound worlds of a colony of living rocks (Glasgow, 2010) thrombolites, whose distinctive dome-like structures are the carbonate build up from colonies of microbes as well as various fauna, residents and scientists, all inhabiting the shores of Lake Clifton, Australia. Drawing inspiration from Deleuze and Guattaris geophilosophy, these works, as we go on to discuss below, speak to a series of thresholds, each fraught with philosophical, scientific and artistic meaning for the posthuman, including art/science, academic/lay, lithic/ organic, taxonomic/monstrous, anerobic/aerobic atmosphere and so on. We map our own journey across each by asking, where is the artistry?

The most human of birds . . . the most aesthetic of all animals


Found across the savannas of Australia, the 14 bowerbird species that construct bowers have become iconic for evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology and biophilosophy as well as the

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Figure 1. Photograph from The World has No Shortage of Things (Phillips, 2007). Here, [t]wo shelves are positioned opposite each other in a secluded corridor. A Great Bowerbird and samples of objects collected by wild birds, face a collection of grey geometric shapes. The opposing displays are accompanied by intense bowerbird calls on the one hand and taxonomic descriptions of the birds on the other. The entire gallery echoes with a soundscape of the world of the bowerbird from the Broome Bird Observatory. (Source: http://www.perditaphillips.com/ index.php?optioncom_mtree&taskviewlink&link_id82&Itemid100151; copyright Perdita Phillips.)

subject of a number of artistic works. What is particular interesting to us about the project Green, Grey or Dull Silver (20072008) is its focus on a series of explorations into the collection practices and observances of the Great Bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis), collections that are read by bird behaviouralists and biologists as a culturally conditioned sign of mate quality. This is itself a neo-Darwinian, aesthetic play that aligns birds with humans in that they have behaviours and characteristics that transcend mere natural selection; as Darwin himself remarked, birds are the most aesthetic of all animals (1871[2004]: n.p.). The aesthetic enters into Phillips artwork by virtue of another manoeuvre, however, as we go on to explain below. That is, whilst she takes on board the scientific method of bird behaviouralists, and indeed her findings contribute to this body of research, there is nonetheless a remaking of the relation between

observer and observed, human and bird. Enrolled in her work, the behaviouralists credence to the taste for beauty shown by these birds in their mating displays is marked by what we might term, following Kant, a teleological judgement as to why and with what effect such a taste is deployed. As Phillips observes in a commentary for her mixed media installation, The World has No Shortage of Things (2007), The males freely avail themselves of human made objects as long as they fit certain criteria of colour, size and roundness. These criteria are thought to be both genetically inherited and in part culturally learnt, and socially transmitted through generations (Phillips, 2007, n.p.; see Figure 1) Bowerbird display is given a purposiveness and a systematicity finding a quality mate via sexual selection that can be apprehended by systematic observation. Whilst deploying the same experimental procedures, Phillips, however, effectively makes art

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Dixon et al. by remaking the relations that bind her to her subjects. Specifically, this is accomplished via an emphasis upon a cross-species expressivity, made possible by a shared capacity for sense making. The consequent sense-worlds created, though, like Yeats widening gyres, are each alien to the other, spiralling away from this mutual grounding in biology. She writes whilst conveying the Umwelt of the bowerbird might ultimately be an impossible task, the artwork explores this space of uncertainty between the human and the nonhuman (2007: n.p.). In The World has No Shortage, this space yawns to encompass the mineral world, represented by grey, geometric shapes, which, Phillips notes, the taxonomic system of Linnaeus floundered upon. The artistry of Phillips works, then, we want to argue in this section, makes an interesting foil against which to engage with the artistry of the bower-birds themselves, an approach made possible by a series of scientific and philosophical interventions on their behaviour and biology. The focus of such fascination are the bowers the male birds create, varying by species from avenues, to stick towers up to 3 m high, and huts up to 4 m in diameter, and decorated with as many as several thousand flowers, fruits, mushrooms, snail shells, butterfly wings, stones and other natural and increasingly human-made objects. How do we understand such activity? According to many bird behaviouralists, the answer lies both in how female bowerbirds respond to such bower collections and how male birds compete in building them. Borgia (1985), for example, has sought to investigate what is termed the marker hypothesis, wherein it is argued that female bowerbirds prefer more highly constructed and decorated bowers, taking these as indicative of a males quality as a mate. Observing satin bowerbirds over a 2-year period, Borgia and his team proceeded to remove from half of the 22 bowers under study some of the decorations (comprising blue feathers, yellow snail shells, cicada skins, etc.), though making sure to leave three yellow leaves which males hold in their beaks during their active displays. This control was held to help isolate the impact of the bower as decorated construct. Not only did females choose the more decorated bowers more frequently, the lower quality specimens were more

259 likely to be attacked by competing male bowerbirds. For Borgia, such a preference makes sense it has a purposiveness, we might say insofar as only the most dominant males can accumulate feathers and snail shells as decorations in such large numbers (1985: 270). Diamonds (1986) study of New Guinea Bowerbirds (Amblyornis inornatus), by contrast, sought to help explain the difference in style between bowers of the same species in the same locale. Using numbered, coloured poker chips, Diamond was able to trace the differential preferences expressed between bowerbirds over space. Decoration colours, bower construction and height were all, he suggested, selected according to culturally conditioned, as opposed to genetically hard-wired, traits. Small wonder he refers to these as the most intriguingly human of birds (Diamond, 1982: 102). The terminology deployed in such studies makes clear their indebtedness to a Darwinist framing of aesthetics, wherein there is a crucial difference noted between natural selection, which is predicated on the environmental fit of randomly produced traits (including an aesthetics of form), and sexual selection, which may well deploy seemingly detrimental traits, such as elaborate bower construction. Indeed, it was Darwins focus on secondary sexual characteristics that his critics, such as the geographer Alfred Russell Wallace, considered a futile point of analysis (Grammer et al., 2003). For Miller, however, such displays signal a truth about the [bird] artists individual fitness (2001: 7). Sexual selection thus highlights the capacity of choice in the selection of a mate in a way that shapes artistic virtuosity as a fitness indicator (2001: 20). Phillips Green, Grey or Dull Silver (20072008) borrows considerably from this body of work. Over a period of 2 years, Phillips left a series of coloured objects around 13 bowers, observing and recording which were chosen by which individuals for collection and construction. It also harkens back to an earlier form of study, however, one that does not reside easily in either scientific or lay knowledges. In the 1960s, retiree Reta Vellenga and her husband undertook a study of satin bowerbirds in their backyard, located in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, over a 6-year period. Following some 426 male

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260 satin bowerbirds, Vellenga (1970) writes of bowers as love parlours that serve as a symbol of a males property rights, a property to be protected aggressively from raids but that were also tended daily. Vellenga also left material decorations for her ethnographic participants in the form of a blue celluloid band that was transferred between sites before becoming woven into one male birds bower. Vellengas thinking like a bowerbird has something in common with the mosquito hunter that Shaw et al. (2010) describe, whose work picks site, pace and purpose from the biogeographic life of the mosquito. But, it also raises questions around the purposiveness of collection practices and observances. Indeed, for Welsch, (2004, n.p.), the central question becomes how is it that beauty and a sense of beauty arise in the context of utility, without being a sense of utility per se, or reducible to utility? In response, Welsch teases out an appreciation of beauty as a capacity in and of itself, one that cannot be reduced to an awareness of fitness and a desire to mate. For if, he argues, there is no clarity as to what the sources of the aesthetic are, then one has no right to degrade animal aesthetics or even to exclude it from the realm of aesthetic consideration by pointing to its sexual grounding (2004, n.p.). It also raises question around the shared aesthetic experience of human and bowerbird. As Darwin went on to state [w]hether we can or not give any reason for the pleasure thus derived from vision and hearing, yet man and many of the lower animals are alike pleased by the same colour, graceful shading and forms and the same sounds (1871[2004]: 88). For Darwin, the answer to the issue of an animal aesthetics lay in neurology, wherein, he argued, a sense of beauty is aligned with both emotional and intellectual capacities. Their ubiquity enables beauty to be judged beyond both the species limit and a simplistic alignment with sexual drive and desire. In the morphology of the bower from the rudimentary practice bowers of an immature male to the constant maintenance of a mature males display bower time and memory enable an aesthetic refinement, Welsch (2004) insists, such that we might say an awareness of agreeability, rather than an immediate desire, emerges.

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) Framed in this way, Phillips bowerbird experiments resonate with Deleuze and Guattaris (2004) understanding of the figure of the artist and the work of art. Indeed, tracking the Brown Stagemaker (Scenopoeetes dentirostris), a species of bowerbird, across their plateaux is to find an increasingly populated world in which a veritable menagerie, including spiny lobsters and poster fish, amongst others, do theoretical work within a broader geophilosophy. The artistry of these various species moves us from the comprehension of territory as tied to aggression, such as we find in bowerbird science, to territory as a form of art tied to expression. That is, in reconnecting territory to rhythm and expressive marking, Deleuze and Guattari develop a series of examples of this becoming-expressive-territory, not least of which is the Brown Stagemaker, which
. . . lays down landmarks each morning by dropping leaves it picks from its tree and then turning them upside down so the paler underside stands out against the dirt: inversion produces a matter of expression. (2004: 348)

As Bogue (1991: 89) explores further, each leaf is a component that is no longer simply part of a milieu by which is meant an ensemble of qualities, substances and events but has been converted into an artistic medium by dint of the repetitive, territorialising behaviour of the bowerbird. In Deleuze and Guattaris text, this visual component of an avian aesthetic is linked into a sonorous element, the becoming expressive of rhythm and melody that is the site of the territorialising factor. Indeed, in describing the bower as a ready-made (after the Dada artists), they note a common, cross-species denominator of working with what is to hand. Thus,
Territorial marks are ready-mades. And what is called art brut is not at all pathological or primitive; it is merely this constitution, this freeing, of matters of expression in the movement of territoriality: the base or ground of art. Take anything and make it a matter of expression. The stagemaker practices art brut. Artists are stage-makers, even when they tear up their own posters. Of course from this standpoint art is not the privilege of human beings. (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004: 349)

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Figure 2. Thrombolites of Lake Clifton, Western Australia. (Source: http://symbiotica-adaptation.com/?page_id46; copyright Perdita Phillips.)

And yet, what does this mean to take anything and make it a matter of expression? To remake territory as an artistic movement? For us, such a post-human aesthetic raises all manner of questions around the thresholds of such a statement, which may well take the form of a limit as to what kind of material is under scrutiny, understood according to its particular expressive capacities, but also in regard to our understanding of the practices that enable this expression and its recognition in others. A threshold may also, however, refer to a point of no return, wherein the Kantian aesthetic order spirals in ever-widening gyres till we can no longer refer back to the analytic coordinates that allowed us to make sense of sense. For us, these questions can be explored via reference to a second artwork by Phillips, The Sixth Shore (20092012), wherein, as we go on to describe below, science is no longer so easily boxed off as teleological judgement. Here, we find a biology that is not tied to complexification and evolutionary imperatives, but is instead a matter of stickiness and gliding, and the inside/outside work of membranes. How, then, do we proceed to think through the science of sense making in this

context? And, what is the import for our understanding of the nature of aesthetics?

Of tiny sounds and evolutionary alternatives


The Sixth Shore (20092012) takes the form of a sound-walk based on and around Lake Clifton, in the Yalgorup National Park, Western Australia. Audiences, walking in other locales, use headspeakers to pick up geolocated layers of sounds from here, including the songs of birdcall, the wind rustling through trees, scientists discussing ecosystem states and local residents offering oral histories. Adding to the complexity of this sonic collage are the imagined sounds of thrombolytic time, centring on one of the few examples of these saline living rocks to be found across the globe. Thrombolites are made up of a complex community of microorganisms, including cyanobacteria, and cemented with crystallised or detrital minerals as well as a slime of biotic material (Figure 2). Within this soundscape, Phillips creates a spiral of tiny sounds, a descent into geological past and tiny pinprick

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262 sounds like the multitudinous field of microbes (2009: 4). These, she writes, help us to access a vast panorama extending from the beginnings of life itself to the present day . . . opening us out onto scales beyond our senses, a window onto the sublime (Phillips, 2009: 4). If Philips finds value in the thrombolites for what she casts, in her artwork, as the challenge they pose to anthropocentric spatial and temporal framings of life, we are concerned with querying to what degree, in what form, and with what import, might we consider such thrombolite colonies, like bowerbirds, to have an aesthetic sense and an artistry. As we go on to describe below, thrombolites do not revolve around reproduction, and hence evolutionary biology as Darwin envisioned it, but around accretion. In terms of territory, then, there are no behaviours to be explored via reference to sexual selection, but rather the working of viscera and membranes in the context of physiological and biochemical gradients. How, then, does this example and its attendant biology prompt us to think about the aesthetic? The Sixth Shore (20092012) was developed and funded as part of the art/science organisation SymbioticAs on-going project, Adaptation, whose launch was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwins On the Origin of Species. And as with her bowerbird work, Phillips makes extensive reference to a body of scientific research, this time encompassing the study of climate change and its impact upon the ecology of Lake Clifton and its environs as well as the microbiology of the thrombolites. In regard to the former, the thrombolites of Lake Clifton have been identified by environmental scientists as being of significance because they are amongst the oldest evidence of life on earth: the probability is that such ancient ecosystems probably signalled the first appearance of cellular organisation and photosynthesis (Smith et al., 2010: 208). As evidence, their particular constellation of materials and forces deserve to be protected from the vicissitudes of environmental change, especially in the context of global changes that the biosphere is experiencing in recent decades (Smith et al., 2010: 208). There is also an originary moment acknowledged here, insofar as it was the

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) emergence of cynaobacteria with their photosynthetic properties, fixing carbon dioxide and excreting oxygen that led to the oxygen holocaust 22002400 million years ago, which in turn allowed for the ascendance of aerobic life (including humans). Certainly, Phillips reference to the (mathematical) sublime echoes this impulse. The second body of scientific work she references, however, looks to the micro in making sense of the thrombolites. And it is here that we can see the thresholds of a teleological reasoning as the metabolic relations via which microbacteria help to form the thrombolite not only withstand causeeffect explanation, as we go on to show below, but reveal an in-betweeness that challenges taxonomic efforts. Indeed, at Lake Clifton, thrombolite growth has been associated with the work of the filamentous cyanobacteria Scytonema sp., especially, distinguishable by virtue of its particular metabolic functions rather than its morphology or cellular structure (Moore and Burne, 1994; Reed et al., 1984). It is this research, at the level of the micro, which prompts us to think more carefully about a post-Kantian aesthetic that seeks to enrol and rework the free play of imagination and understanding or sensibility and knowledge/cognition. Specifically, it prompts us to consider the real conditions for the possibility of an aesthetics for thrombolite communities. If we can think of bats, for example, as developing sonar, a new form of sensibility through which this organism is enabled in the context of the complexities of its environment and via which it selectively relates to it (Bogue, 2003), then in order to understand thrombolite aesthetics, we need to take account of their key capacity in relation to the complexities of their environment and that is accretion. What microlevel analysis of the thrombolites highlights is that it achieves accretion via three processes, each working with largely the same materials, but via a variety of physical and chemical interactions, and over a number of time-frames. First, there is the precipitation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) from water in the form of calcite. This occurs when CaCO3-rich water reaches a saturation point, and the resulting coating forms a kind of cement that embeds the existing material. Second, there is the trapping and intertwining of detrital

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Dixon et al. sediments by the sticky surface properties, sheath hydrophobicity, and gliding motility (Burne and Moore, 1987: 243) of the tough, cellular walls of filamentous cyanobacteria as well as the slimy extracellular DNA, proteins and polysaccharides extruded by microorganisms. And, third, several microbial groups including cyanobacteria, but also aerobic heterotrophs, sulphide-oxidizing bacteria, sulphate-reducing bacteria and fermentative bacteria (Riding, 2000) biogenically precipitate CaCO3 once a saturation threshold has been reached, with crystals nucleating on and within the biomass. The internal coherence and metabolic functioning of an individual cyanobacterium, then, is expressed as a complex sensible negotiation of environmental outsides, understood here as physiochemical gradients. This internal composition simultaneously impacts upon the relations expressed between and amongst cyanobacteria as well as on their production of lithic material (see Stal, 1995). At Lake Clifton, cyanobacteria are sustained by carbonate and biocarbonate ions in the groundwater that seep into the lake and precipitate CaCO3 as the mineral aragonite. It remains a point of scientific debate, however, as to the causeeffect relations operating here. Indeed, the literature seems to point to the paucity of such a mode of thinking in light of the difficulty in retaining a sense of individual components acting upon each other. This includes the seemingly antithetical character of the organic and the lithic.2 For example, there is a query over how the CaCO3-rich water reaches a saturation point, thus precipitating the deposition of the minerals that form the thrombolites lithic components (see Dupraz et al., 2009). On the one hand, the uptake of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis increases the pH surrounding the cyanobacterial cell, which favours carbonate precipitation. On the other hand, biocarbonate is the product of microbial sulphate and nitrate reduction, and its production also promotes CaCO3 precipitation. Calcification itself can cause impregnation of sheath material by crystals (which ultimately results in the formation of macaroni-like tubes) or the encrustration of sheath material to form an external crust [giving] . . . molds of small intertwined and felted groups of sheaths rather than individual filaments (Burne and Moore, 1987: 245). At the scale of the thrombolite, we find

263 that the living cyanobacterial mat grades into microgranular aragonite enclosing numerous remnants of cyanobacterial sheaths (capsules) and then, deeper, into pure aragonitic micrite (Kempe and Kazmierczak, 2007: 252). Aragonite is thermodynamically unstable in the ambient conditions of Earth, and tends to alter to calcite at scales of 107108 years; these are polymorphs, with the same chemical formula but a different chemical structure. Bearing this scientific framing of the microlevel in mind, if we look to the cyanobacteria as an entry point into the thrombolite we can in turn query in what form we find aesthetics. A first, and increasingly visible, route lies in biogenics (Lyon, 2007). Here, there is a concerted effort to understand how organisms such as cyanobacteria have an emergent level of complexity such as we see, albeit in different forms, in the aesthetic judgements of Kants third critique, and in the expressive actions of the bowerbirds. Bacteria have, under the scalar logics of normative cognitive science that is, working down from human cognition long been thought too simple and too reactive to have cognitive capacities. But, these recent biogenic approaches have insisted upon bacteria as having the capacity for remembering, problem-solving, learning and communication (Stotz and Griffiths, 2008). Such approaches, taken up most forcefully in the biohumanities and cognitive biology, up-end normative arguments by seeking answers to what were psychological questions principally around cognition within the realm of the biological (see Shapiro, 2007). What is more, bacteria are not just to be considered singular entities collected en masse, but are also framed here in terms of their complex collective behaviours, swarming motility or wolf pack hunting, all mediated by chemical forms of communication (Lyon, 2007). Biofilms, which include everything from the layers of plaque on our teeth to the complex communities of the thrombolites, become rendered as highly structured living arrangements that can contain many different species of bacteria, and which allow for the division of labour and mutual living.3 An alternative route, however, is focused not upon humanising the traits bacteria are in possession of, but upon the wholesale working over of our

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264 understanding of cognition. Indeed, such an approach raises a slew of questions concerning our apprehension of aesthetics as a science of the sensible in which biophysical and the biochemical are centralised. Specifically, and once more following Phillips lead, we can look to Deleuze, who identifies a primary vital sensibility, wherein organic syntheses metabolism in other words form the building blocks for rational, conscious cognition (Deleuze, 1994: 100). What is important for our understanding of aesthetics here is not that such basic syntheses are a stepping stone for a cognition wherein we can recognise the modes and registers of aesthetics identified above; that is, as based on rational judgement or a form of sensed expression. Rather, under the rubric of the biological transcendental aesthetic (see Protevi, 2010a, 2010b), this is a biological, or enactive, cognition. In other words, sense-making is no longer to be apprehended, as in Kants third critique, as a transcendental analytic, with aesthetics as a higher level of emergent complexity. Instead, biological sense making proffers the a priori, but always concrete, genesis, of organic time and space (Deleuze, 1994: 98). Without wishing to delve too deeply into Deleuzes oeuvre this time,4 sense-making is constituted here from a series of syntheses, not all of which are operative across all organisms. Thus, the active syntheses of thought are allowed for by the passive syntheses of perception; these in turn are allowed for by passive organic syntheses (or metabolism). The challenge lies in avoiding a reductive tracing back whilst articulating how such passive syntheses are indeed constitutive. That is, in grasping how the organic synthesis of the elements of water, earth, light and air is not merely prior to the active synthesis that would recognise or represent them, but is also prior to their being sensed . . . each organism not only in its receptivity and perception but also in its viscera (that is its metabolism), is a sum of contractions, or retentions and expectations (Deleuze, 1994: 73, 99). Local selves, in this case cyanobacteria, are formed in terms of these contractions in the viscera, which thereby account simultaneously for the possibility of experiencing sensations [and] the power of reproducing them (Deleuze, 1994: 98).

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) This gives us then, a biological (though not, it must be stressed, a biologically reductive) aesthetic. And yet, we wonder, do thrombolites challenge us to query aesthetics even further than do the cyanobacteria that help constitute them? What is the relationship between the aesthetics of cynaobacteria, as outlined above, and the accreted, thromobolite colony? By way of concluding this section, we want to take the opportunity to offer a speculative line of inquiry that looks a little more closely at milieu, a term that appeared in the preceding section. There, in the bowerbird context, milieu referred to leaves that, redistributed by the bowerbirds, became expressive insofar as they allowed for a territory to emerge; such material recomposition being described by Deleuze and Guattari in artistic terms as a ready-made. In the thrombolytic context, however, questions around milieu and expression are cast in, more literally, molecular ways. Milieu becomes, in the first instance, an illuminating structural component, enabling us to better comprehend these bioticnon-biotic assemblages and the real conditions for their growth via accretion. As we noted above, a crucial means of cementation is the sticky, unsheathed DNA material extruded by microorganisms, and Deleuze and Guattari, in discussing organic expression at the scale of genes (amongst other scales), make a mention of proteins drawn from a pre-biotic soup (2004: 42). Here, expression means putting of content to work, with content in this case being amino acids, and expression being the nucleotide sequences and the gene itself (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004: 42). Following on from this, is it possible to see thrombolites as a figuring of milieu, which, Deleuze and Guattari explain, grow from the middle (au milieu) when molecular materials and substantial elements are exchanged and organised around a reversible boundary or membrane, forming a unity of composition that is qualitatively unique? The resulting material assemblage incorporates all that is involved in the interactions between its elements, compounds, energy sources and organisms from the molecular to the molar levels. Can we sketch out a framing for the thrombolite science described above that proffers expression, and hence an artistry of a form, to these bioticnon-biotic

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Dixon et al. assemblages? Specifically, in contrast to our bowerbird example, such a framing would be, in part, possible because genes become here a means of expression they put content to work not only via their role within reproduction (in this case, morphological bifurcation) but also via accretion. Are there hints, perhaps, of a post-human aesthetic that can be linked to a biology that persists otherwise than via the evolution of human expressivity? In the second instance, thinking through milieu directs us to the manner in which the components that make up the thrombolite bind and cleave. In DeleuzoGuattarian terms, living and non-living materials are both topological, insofar as they are an intensification of space and time, but Protevi (2010a, n.p.) argues, following Simondon (2007[1995]), organic life possesses a particular, dynamic topological configuration that allows for the measured unfolding of time at both the molecular and species level. That is, in the ontogenetic organic register, cellular displacement and temporality of gene expression networks are linked in embryonic development, whilst in the evolutionary organic register, the distribution of plastic developmental systems (multiplicity of concrete space and time of ontogenesis in a population) provides the variation for the temporality of genetic accommodation (Simondon, 2007[1995]). Are thrombolites, perhaps, figures par excellence of Deleuze and Guattaris self-consistent aggregate? These are composed of heterogeneous elements, as opposed to the homogeneous strata that ensue from a series of linear causalities between elements. In a passage that actually concerns itself with bowerbirds, Deleuze and Guattari write that with such self-consistent aggregates
instead of a regulated succession of formssubstances we are presented with consolidations of very heterogeneous elements, orders that have been short-circuited or even reverse causalities, and captures between materials and forces of a different nature: as if a machinic phylum, a destratifying transversality, moved through elements, orders, forms and substances, the molar and the molecular, freeing a matter and tapping forces. (2004: 370)

265 Rendered thus, the paradoxical figure of the living rock chimerical, alien, otherwise that has so often been configured as a remarkable leftover from another time and place, both preceding and helping to beget life as we know it on this planet, no longer appears to slouch towards us in quite so confounding a manner. But, we wonder, is this because the analytic co-ordinates via which we have made sense of sense have now been set adrift in a post-human landscape? Have we reached the expressive limits of the aesthetic? Or, have we merely caught sight of new vistas?

In conclusion: the value of humanist remains


To deploy, for the moment, more traditional frames of reference for an understanding of the aesthetic, its analytic value, we suggest, as with science, lies not in any sense of resolution, but rather with the unfolding of question after question. The terrain it inhabits is an invitation to thought. This does not take the form of a systematic methodology, of course, but rather a tracing between science, philosophy and art around the notion of sense-making. From Kant to Deleuze, biogenics to dark materialisms, we can see how aesthetic inquiry partakes of each it acquires a motile lexicon of sense, sensibility and cognition yet we do not see the final triumph of one or other framing, whether this be a biological reductivism or a transcendentalism. Instead, the aesthetic makes a display of its constitutive outside, inviting the arrival of new empirics, theories, speculations, all to be placed over and against each other as well as previous work. Conceived of as a sk(e)in that connects but never envelops its constitutive parts, the aesthetic surely resonates with a geographic discipline that continually negotiates the physical and social sciences as well as the humanities. In particular, we want to conclude, it resonates with a humanistic geography and a post-human geomorphology. In regard to the former, this is not, as we hope has become clear, because the aesthetic is allied with an uniquely human rationality and reason or is concerned with an individualistic, emotional response to art. Rather, such an aesthetic field of inquiry echoes the breadth of commentaries by geographers such as Tuan (1989), as noted earlier, and Buttimer (1976), commentaries usually

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266 consigned to the underlying layers of a disciplinary palimpsest. Yet, bearing in mind the arguments made above, what could be more post-human, for example, than Buttimers (1976: 283) call for more in-depth inquiry into the organic, cognitive, affective and symbolic foundations of our place in and with the world? Faced with the desire to decentre, as well as the obligation to preserve, this humanist impulse has indeed deepened over recent decades into a consideration of what remains of the human. Indeed, it has become relevant to the halting emergence of what might be termed a post-human geomorphology, insofar as this exploratory work calls into question the very foundations upon which a humanenvironment relationship has been made central to physical geography. At first glance, recent interest in the framing of landforms as emerging from the intersection of human consciousness and quantum processes, such that consistent macroscopic idealizations are perceived and cognised as landforms (Harrison, 2001; Rhoads, 1999), would appear to very much resonate with a Kantian notion of knowledge production. The intent here, however, is to underscore the ontic, rather than epistemic, character of landforms, insofar as their emergence requires an immersive experience of a world characterised not so much by flow and flux as by materialities that collide, congeal, morph, evolve, and disintegrate (Bennett, 2009: xi). Small wonder, then, that some geomorphologists have developed an interest in what may be termed the affective capacity of landscape, such that awe and excitement are both mobilised and acknowledged as part and parcel of the research experience (Baker, 2008; Baker and Twidale, 1991; Tooth, 2006, 2009). We hope to have made the argument that the aesthetic should play a substantive role in these debates, whether in the form of a post-Kantian questioning of the sense making subject, as we have outlined it, or via other routes, such as a Neitzschean partaking of process. For our part, we find within this tracing of the aesthetic a suite of concepts that cry out for further attention from geographers, not least of which are play and creativity, the former consigned to the word of children, the latter making an emaciated appearance within the economic geography literature. If we acknowledge their circulation

Dialogues in Human Geography 2(3) through the arts and humanities, certainly, but also philosophy and biology, what new invitations to thought are put forth? Authors Note
A draft of part of this paper was presented in the session on Human Remains: The place of the human in a post-human world organised by Paul Harrison and John Wylie for the IVth Nordic Geographers Meeting, Roskilde, 2011.

Acknowledgements
We are grateful to Paul and John for proffering this invitation to thought and to the participants for their comments. We are also very grateful to three referees for their engaged, constructive reviews.

Funding
Research for this work was funded by an AHRC/NSF grant [AHRC Grant No. AH/I500022/1; NSF Grant No. 86908].

Notes
1. See, for example, works collected together during the Real Thing exhibition and event (https://www.tate. org.uk/britain/eventseducation/lateattatebritain/lateatt atebritainseptember2010.htm [accessed 12 August 2011]) and also those under discussion at the Dark Materialisms Symposium (conducted on 21 January 2011) hosted by the Natural History Museum (http:// back doorbroadcasting.net/2011/01/dark-materialism/ [accessed 12 August 2011]). 2. This is a dichotomy that Bennetts (2009) Vibrant Matter so engagingly takes to task, not least via her deployment of an image from Cornelia Parkers (1992) installation Neither From Nor Towards as cover-art. Here, a flock (?), shoal (?) of rocks rises up from the floor. These flighty (?), swimming (?) rocks are loosened from their geologic stratum, emerging into another airy (?), liquid (?) realm. The emphasis here is not upon a strange transformation from the inorganic into the organic; rather, there is an unfolding of a capacity for flight (?), floating (?). 3. Of course, descending to a sub-microlevel allows us to query the coherence of just such a system, and thus the making of such claims. Microbacteria, for example, are themselves thoroughly permeated by viruses that enable particular microbial growth rates, genetic exchange, diversity and adaptation (Desnues et al., 2008).

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4. For a consideration of the relationship between Deleuze and key geographical concepts, see Bonta and Protevi (2004), Buchanan and Lambert (2005) and Doel (1999).

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