Machinic Companions: Exploring Nonhuman Perceptions, Temporalities and Expressions

Elke Marhöfer

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 10, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: in words
practice: image
keywords: apparatus, ecology, film, Karen Barad, machinic phylum, technical objects

abstract video about the author(s)


Scientific research needs objects and apparatuses for investigations, but usually forgets them when it retrospectively constructs objectivity. Karen Barad refers to this as a “quantum entanglement” between the object and the “agencies of observation.” In a guided screening of my film prendas—ngangas—enquisos—machines (16 mm, Cuba, 2014), I will trace how research tools are not to be understood as somnambulant immobilities but as intensive ecological and relational forces with autonomous qualities. The camera, for example, is undoubtedly a moving “body” with expressive capacities, formed by the entanglement of the different rhythmic worlds, rather than just cultural and technical equipment. It breathes. It doesn’t “capture” reality but dynamically disturbs it, or moves conjointly with its surroundings. It never remains at one speed or one affect throughout a film, but each change of speed and each affect, every tiny turn inside my head, becomes a real movement. The camera maintains a state of constant change and becoming together, or at the same time. It doesn’t conflate, but creates human and nonhuman assemblages by actualising symbiotic sensibilities in motion. Describing machinic (opposed to mechanistic) relations or alliances, Deleuze and Guattari come up with the seductive wording “machinic phylum.” Unlike biology’s classical animal or plant phylum, the machinic phylum decodes kingdoms, classes, orders, and families, and crosses them diagonally. The machinic phylum is natural and artificial, a “destratifying transversality.” The machinic phylum is helpful as it enables us to understand technology not just as tied to a human “evolution” but also as a living system that folds, unfolds, and refolds organic and machinic matter into one another. Learning from and accessing nonhuman perceptions, temporalities, and expressions turns a camera into a machinic companion and the making of art into a situated practice of ecology.


about the author(s)

Elke Marhöfer

Elke Marhöfer is an artist living in Berlin. Via moving images and suppositious writing, Marhöfer works with notions of self-admitted foreignness and radical othering. She collaborates with dear friends and things and revises notions of animal, vegetable, and object relations. Marhöfer studied at the University of the Arts Berlin, the School of the Art Institute Chicago, and the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York, and is enrolled on a practice-based PhD at the University of Gothenburg. She received fellowships from IASPIS Residency, Sweden, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, and Cité des Arts Paris. Her films have been screened at the British Film Institute, London, Berlinale—Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin, International Film Festival, Rotterdam, Courtisane Festival, Ghent, Cinematek Brussels, Images Festival, Toronto, and the Showroom, London. Her art exhibitions include at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, FCAC Shanghai, Manufactura’s Studio, Wuhan, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and NGBK, Berlin.

info & contact


Independent artist, Berlin, DE