2021
Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

A global pandemic followed by many redundancies and economic volatility, climate change issues, nationwide and international protests over racial injustice, a contentious presidential election in the US dominated the news this year. After many uncertainties and exhaustion we were faced with, just when there was a glimmer of hope with Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines being circulated to NHS, London and many surrounding areas were forced into Tier 4 as a new fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 was blamed for an increase in cases.

The new year brings a lot of opportunities and hope, but we cannot expect instant normality either. Similarly to Metamorphosis– the biological process of an animal physically developing, involving a conspicuous and abrupt change in the animal’s body structure through cell growth- we are all in the cusp of change with an unforeseen future. In order to move forward and acknowledge what we have done wrong as humanity, we need to accept the changes we are going through. FollowingOpen Space’s 2020 theme Manufacturing Memory and months of uncertainty with a turbulent year starting off with Covid-19, Open Space introduces its 2021 Programme theme: Metamorphosis. Deriving from Greek μεταμόρφωσις,meta meaning “after” and morph meaning “form”, the word itself indicates transformation. Historically, references to “metamorphosis” are linked to transformation that can also be seen in Goethe’s Metamorphosis of plants, which influenced the development of ideas of evolution. In the post-Capitalocene world, with recent drastic changes around the ecosystem and climate change, we are faced to look at the world differently in search of kinship instead of individuality.  In order to comprehend Metamorphosis, we need to understand and question Posthuman Metamorphosis. 

Posthuman Metamorphosis examines modern and postmodern stories of bodily transformation through interlocking frames of posthumanism, narratology, and second-order systems theory. New media and social media have generated new metamorphs. New stories have emerged from cybernetic displacements of life, sensation, or intelligence from human beings to machines. But beyond the vogue for the cyborg and the cybernetic mash-up of the organic and the mechanical, Posthuman Metamorphosis develops neo-cybernetic systems theories illuminating alternative narratives that elicit autopoietic and symbiotic visions of the posthuman. Systems theory also transforms our modes of narrative cognition. Regarding narrative in the light of the autopoietic systems it brings into play, neocybernetics brings narrative theory into constructive relation with the systemic operations of observation, communication, and paradox. Posthuman Metamorphosis draws on Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Niklas Luhmann, Cary Wolfe, Mieke Bal, Katherine Hayles, Friedrich Kittler, and Lynn Margulis to read narratives of bodily metamorphosis as allegories of the contingencies of systems. 

Tracing the posthuman intuitions of both pre- and post-cybernetic metamorphs and the current pandemic, it demonstrates the viability of second-order systems theories for narrative theory, media theory, cultural science studies, and literary criticism. Open Space will aim to bring about discussions, dialogues and responses to Metamorphosis and posthuman Metamorphosis through its Writing Space, Forum curated by Caterina Avateneo, Online workshops and pedagogical, non-pedagogical talks and direct commissions through collaborations. Similarly to an organism, as Open Space had to go through change in which the physical projects were on hold. With a new year and potential collaborations, we aim to continue highlighting the work of emerging voices and create dialogues. 

Photo Credit: Yoal Desurmont