WE HAVE NEVER BEEN MODERN
The slogan for the La Nuu 2023 exhibition is taken from the ironic and provocative title of a book by the philosopher Bruno Latour (1947-2022), We Have Never Been Modern. The book is an essay of what Latour called symmetrical anthropology which seeks to demonstrate that we have never fully entered modernity.
We Have Never Been Modern was published in 1991, at the height of the popularity of post-modernist thought, and its aim was to break down the excluding dichotomy of modern thought, Subject-Object, and its derivative Nature-Culture. The book was also a critique of the idea of modernity and its alleged superiority over other forms of thought. As a post-colonial intellectual, the philosopher rejected the idea of a rational West and an irrational primitive world.
Latour argued that modernity is based on the idea that humans are the only social actors, while nature is seen as an inert object. This division between nature and society, between objectivity and subjectivity, has led to the exploitation and degradation of the environment. Moreover, the political aspect of his thinking points out the link between the devastation of the earth and social injustice.
In accordance with what is known as the Actor-Network theory, Bruno Latour considers that both Subjects (humans) and Objects (non-humans) have agency, adding to the terminology by introducing the concepts of quasi-objects and quasi-subjects to discuss this hybridisation and the relational networks that shape our world.
We live in complex worlds where the reduction of one sphere of life to another (from science to society, or vice versa) entails an absolute loss in the description of reality.
By recognising that there are objects that do not fit into this binary division, we can begin to think about reality in a more complex way, open to the diversity of objects and entities that exist in the world. The separation between object, subject and discourse is totally artificial.
Photographic practice embraces the intersection of spheres that make up the totality of the real according to Latour: the external world, human subjectivity and the representation of discourse. The photographic works and curatorship that form La Nuu 2023 encourage us to reflect on the contradictions and doubts that underpin the pillars of our civilisation and propose other ways of reconsidering the world.