Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2019. 600 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-1-950192-17-5. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0246.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $29.00 in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Liquid Life: On Non-Linear Materiality

If we lived in a liquid world, the concept of a “machine” would make no sense. Liquid life is metaphor and apparatus that discusses the consequences of thinking, working, and living through liquids. It is an irreducible, paradoxical, parallel, planetary-scale material condition, unevenly distributed spatially, but temporally continuous. It is what remains when logical explanations can no longer account for the experiences that we recognize as part of “being alive.”

Liquid Life references a third-millennial understanding of matter that seeks to restore the agency of the liquid soul for an ecological era, which has been banished by reductionist, “brute” materialist discourses and mechanical models of life. Offering an alternative worldview of the living realm through a “new materialist” and “liquid” study of matter, Armstrong conjures forth examples of creatures that do not obey mechanistic concepts like predictability, efficiency, and rationality. With the advent of molecular science, an increasingly persuasive ontology of liquid technologies can be identified. Through the lens of lifelike dynamic droplets, the agency for these systems exists at the interfaces between different fields of matter/energy that respond to highly local effects, with no need for a central organizing system.

Liquid Life seeks an alternative partnership between humanity and the natural world. It provokes a re-invention of the languages of the living realm to open up alternative spaces for exploration, including contributor Rolf Hughes’ “angelology” of language, which explores the transformative invocations of prose poetry, and Simone Ferracina’s graphical notations that help shape our concepts of metabolism, upcycling, and designing with fluids. A conceptual and practical toolset for thinking and designing, liquid life reunites us with the irreducible “soul substance” of living things, which will neither be simply “solved,” nor go away.

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