Hyposubjects

Hyposubjects is a collaborative thinking, writing and mischief making project with Timothy Morton that seeks to push beyond his celebrated work on massive multiphasic hyperobjects (global warming, Styrofoam, plastic bags, etc.) and toward sounding the humbler forms of subjective life that are emerging in the world at the cusp of a civilizational shift from hyper to hypo. An early set of thoughts can be found here and a recent interview is here. Over a year, we recorded and remixed a series of conversations into a text that was judged “flimsy and chaotic” by one reviewer. We take this as high praise because it indeed represents the hallucinatory ravings of a couple of hypersubjects seeking to reform themselves. There’s been talk of making hyposubjects into a game. But for the moment it’s just a weird text. Here’s how it begins:

 

0.0001: think small

         

Check the warning label before you read any further. It might go something like: what follows is an exercise in flimsy and chaotic thinking. You are bound to be disappointed. No, seriously. Don’t get your hopes up. Especially if you are looking for something like a “theory of the hyposubject.” Good luck finding it in this heap. A lot of what is happening here frankly doesn’t make very much sense. Yes, we know we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. You don’t have to tell us again. But it all comes from a sincere spirit of trying to help. Which, for beings like us, means becoming less. Sometimes it takes two to unmake one. We began this hallucinatory internal dialogue in 2014, a few years before it became obvious that fascism had returned full-force to the world alongside (thankfully) socialism. Liberalism is still much the same: a smug zombie that thinks it’s passing for a normal human. 

         We wrote a few years before “climate change” became “climate emergency.” Premonitions and underestimations abound in what follows. But we believe our original intuition still holds. The time of hypersubjects is ending. Their desert-apocalypse-fire-and-death cults aren’t going to save them this time. Meanwhile the time of hyposubjects is beginning. And they will provide their own theories, thank you very much. If you know all that already, then maybe don’t waste your time with this. We’re happy to just be bystanders as hyposubjects come into their own and world themselves. But we’re also happy to lend a hand as needed. One person’s junkyard is another person’s playground. The weird little hall of mirrors we’ve created here is filled with nightmares and jokes and distractions and shards of utopias. We’re keen to share this haunt with anyone intrigued by it. Basically anyone who feels the madness that accompanies a world turning itself inside out. If you’re still here, welcome. We begin (again) by ending.

         What do we think of human beings? We think they would be a very good idea. 

We live in a time of hyperobjects, of objects too massive and multiphasic in their distribution in time and space for humans to fully comprehend or experience them in a unitary way. A black hole is a kind of hyperobject, a biosphere is another. But many of the hyperobjects that concern us have human origins. For example, global warming. Or antibiotics. Or plastic bags. Or capitalism. These hyperobjects exceed and envelop us like a viscous fog, they make awkward and unexpected appearances, they inspire hypocrisy and lameness and dread.

         A certain kind of human has helped usher the world into the hyperobjective era. Let’s call them hypersubjects. You will recognize them as the type of subjects you are invited to vote for in elections, the experts who tell you how things are, the people shooting in your schools, the mansplainers from your Twitter feed. Hypersubjects are typically but not exclusively white, male, northern, well-nourished, modern in all senses of the term. They wield reason and technology, whether cynically or sincerely, as instruments for getting things done. They command and control, they seek transcendence, they get very high on their own supply of dominion. Do you want to know what is increasingly irritating hypersubjects? That hyperobjects are whispering in their ears that this being and time they have fashioned in their own image and for their own convenience is dying. The voices in their heads say that there is no time for hypersubjects any more. It is hyposubjectivity rather than hypersubjectivity that will be the companion of the hyperobjective era.

         So, as hypersubjects seeking to reform, we have begun in a Roomba-like way to explore the political potentiality of hyposubjects. Although hyposubjectivity sounds a bit like an abject condition of being forced to endure and suffer the effects of viscous forces like climate change and capital, we wonder whether that sense of weakness and insignificance and lack of knowledge and agency is actually what needs embracing. Looking backwards, the road to our present condition is paved with mastery of things, people and creatures and with weird faith in our species’ alleged ability to always know more and better. This project may end up resembling a book but we hope it will become a game, maybe a role playing game because we all like costumes and because this is a game that needs more players. Soon it will be made open source and open access for collective reflection and elaboration. For the moment, here are some things we’ve been saying:

         ∞      Hyposubjects are the native species of the Anthropocene and only just now beginning to discover what they may be and become.

         ∞      Like their hyperobjective environment, hyposubjects are also multiphasic and plural, not-yet, neither here nor there, less than the sum of their parts. They are in other words subscendent rather than transcendent. They do not pursue or pretend to absolute knowledge and language let alone power. Instead they play, they care, they adapt, they hurt, they laugh.

         ∞      Hyposubjects are necessarily feminist, antiracist, colorful, queer, ecological, transhuman and intrahuman. They do not recognize the rule of androleukoheteropetromodernity and the apex species behavior it epitomizes and reinforces. But they also hold the bliss-horror of extinction fantasies at bay because hyposubjects’ befores, nows and afters are many.

         ∞      Hyposubjects are squatters and bricoleuses. They inhabit the cracks and hollows. They turn things inside out and work with scraps and remains. They unplug from carbon gridlife and hack and redistribute its stored energies for their own purposes.

         ∞      Hyposubjects make revolutions where technomodern radar can’t glimpse them. They patiently ignore expert advice that they don’t or can’t exist. They are skeptical of efforts to summarize them, including everything we have just said.

         In sum, for the moment, the transcendent hypersubject continues to stalk the earth. But he is doing so in an increasingly flickering, even spectral way; his monophasic being is perpetually out of sync. Half-aware that his time is past, he lashes out violently, pouts, negates any alternative, bargains for salvational machines and afterlife redemptions. You might pity him were he not the cause of so much trouble over so much time. As we write, huge numbers of these distressed creatures are climbing inside of balloons called Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro, inflating them, hoping to fly away. But as in Alfonso Cuarón’s film Gravity, what awaits us instead is fabricating a future out of ruins and preparing for a long perilous voyage back to earth. That future will belong to hyposubjects; if we wish to thrive we will become human (again).

© 2020 Dominic Boyer