What are you doing after the orgy?1The "posthuman" is generally conceived as (1) a fusion between the human body and technological media, a "cyborg", (2) a genetically "perfect" being that no longer knows sex as difference or uses sex as a means of reproduction, (3) a human being who is beyond binary constructions and, as such, beyond subjectivity itself, or (4) some combination of the above.
Yet the posthuman is not this postmodern fantasy of a "new being." The posthuman has always existed among humanity. This can be seen by closely reading literary works that demonstrate human beings reacting to human situations in strictly posthuman ways. However, before the advent of postmodernism, posthumans were the exception. It is the condition of excess that produces the posthuman. Today it is the excess of representation—representation in excessive immediacy—that makes the general population posthuman.
The posthuman resembles a human like a stunt double resembles an actor performing some dangerous feat. However, the stunt double and actor are both anonymous, both acting for a hidden camera, and both watched only by an absent eye. The actor is acknowledged and credited by the simulation, and becomes simulated. The stunt becomes an event that is carbon copied and exported across information superhighways. The original stunt is not representation; it is a true story.
"Everything seemed intensely real. He could not bear it any longer." —Elementary Particles, Houellebecq2
Postmodernism has erected digital, global, and virtual stages on which there are only stunt doubles. A stage on which anything can be performed, a stage that is fully illuminated with no secrets, or a stage, still fully lit, composed entirely of secrets. The porno theatre, and not just sexual porn, but any kind of mediation aimed at representing 'reality,' is an example of a stage without secrets, in which science turns nature into a pornographic scene. The political theatre is an example of a stage for a masquerade, on which politicians wear masks of themselves and the audience (also composed of actors) knows, in advance, the tautological conclusion of the drama.
Postmodernism's permanent conceptual legacy is the abolition of difference by fusion, limit through transgression, and opposition by placing opposites in positions of collusion. Fusion of differences produces the sense of imaginary differences. Transgressions of limit produce laws meant to be broken. When opposites are in collusion, things and meanings become equivalent and lose the qualities of ambiguity and ambivalence; for example, we find "crime" and the "law," instead of being in an opposite relation, are most often found obviously intertwined (the election and re-election of George W. Bush?). The technical legacy of postmodernism accompanies the conceptual legacy through improvements made to the archiving, recording, and transmission of "information"—the hypermedia.
"Here, from the immense atrium situated on the prow, you can stare out to sea as though you were watching it on a gigantic screen." —Elementary Particles, Houellebecq3
Everywhere, virtually everything we see is designed to promote and provoke some kind of human response. Art perfects the gimmickry of nature; love perfects the signs of seduction/sexuality; politics exemplifies the 'world is a stage' metaphor; science achieves knowledge of, if not control over, the mechanical universe (it has only just discovered there is a human code to be perfected...). The market economy simultaneously expands and reduces to satiate or deprive human nature's most refined desires and base needs—or exploit them.
Media becomes "hyper" when it operates as an all-inclusive code or package, colluding with the human subject's established expectations and desires rather than challenging the subject by its distance. In its excess and ubiquitous content, hypermedia communicates between other forms of itself, not between human subjects. At best, human beings are the operators of this hypermedia that represents all possibilities of desire.
Because posthuman art is based on the perfection of code, the work of analysis and interpretation is no longer necessary. There is only ciphering and deciphering, the same elements rearranged endlessly. The reading of code replaces meaning, and content is a by-product of the medium itself. Bestsellers like The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter series exemplify this codification; their mass popularity is because all meanings are codified and designed to produce the satisfaction of "getting it."
If, for humanity, there is a true story and real disaster, for the posthuman, there are no such things. Immediate reality is perceived as representation. The scarcity of meaning amidst abundant (excessive, surplus) representation results in indifference to meaning. Side effects include anticipation (e.g. postmodern fantasies) for what will never arrive and melancholic nostalgia for (a) being (that never was), a being where meaning was, where meaning had never been, or for what will become meaningful.
While human aesthetics relies on the dialectic between surface and depth, the depths being "hidden" somewhere beneath or beyond the surface, posthuman aesthetics rely on pure surface, a Baudrillardian "superficial abyss." When the obscene takes centre stage as in "reality television" or pornography, the distance necessary for human aesthetics dissolves. The bang and the buck fused together in glorious absurd obscenity (porno movies with stories, however perverted, tawdry, and ridiculous). Nothing is hidden: what is simply not shown is not considered "hidden." The message has been discarded and only the media remain. It is film that speaks in literature, painting that draws sculpture, music that plays ping-pong. Fiction is esteemed when it is not merely "based on a true story" but on the truth itself; disasters are perceived as "just like the movies." The expression, "S/he's quite a character!" is true, insofar as identity is essentially a fictional construct, sustained by the narrative captioning points of lived experience.
1 See http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=293.
2 Translated by Frank Wynne, Knopf, 2000, p. 95
3 p. 187