The HUMAN+ exhibition at the ArtScience Museum is a spectacular showcase on the future of humanity – the real, the augmented and the frighteningly plausible.
30 May, 2017
“Our perception of what it means to be human has been transformed by science and technology. Advances in genetic engineering, biotechnology and nanotechnology that not long ago seemed purely science fiction are now real,” says Honor Harger, Executive Director of ArtScience Museum. “What does it mean to be human now? Should we continue to embrace modifications to our minds, bodies and daily lives, or are there boundaries we shouldn’t overstep?”
A co-production of the Artscience Museum, the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), the exhibition HUMAN+: The Future of Our Species addresses these questions with artworks, robotic technologies and innovations.
An exciting journey filled with wonder and curiosity that at times evokes a sense of the uncanny valley, the exhibition is presented in four themed galleries.
The first gallery (‘Augmented Abilities’) showcases the ways in which we have augmented our minds and bodies. Examples range from the simplest modifications like wearing contact lenses (captured in the photography series FAKE i REAL ME by Corrine Marriaud) and bespoke prosthetic limb to express oneself (The Alternative Limb Project by Sophie Oliveira Barata) to outsourcing your senses to a machine (ReWired/Remixed: Event for Dismembered Body by Stelarc) and implanting a cybernetic enhancement that makes one legally a cyborg (Sonochromatic Head and Seismic Arms by Cyborg Arts, Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas).
The second gallery (‘Encountering Others’) imagines a life side-by-side with robotic companions. Exhibits include a wall of disembodied robotic eyes that follow your movement (Area V5 by Louis-Philippe Demers), a robot arm to rock your baby’s cradle (The Optimization of Parenting, Part 2 by Addie Wagenknecht) and an participatory installation called TEASE by students of Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive Design Media that invites visitors to interact with disembodied body parts on the wall to elicit reactions from digital faces displayed above them.
If we change the environment, will we have to change ourselves in order to adapt to it? The third gallery (‘Authoring Environments’) features plausible answers to that question with speculative artworks that include a catalogue of future flora and fauna that have evolved because of human intervention (A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World by Robert Zhao Renhui) and a fashionable pollination kit to mitigate the disappearance of honeybees (The Human Pollination Project by Laura Allcorn).
The journey concludes at the fourth and most intriguing gallery (‘Life at the Edges’), which explores the limits of human life and longevity. The exhibits in this gallery provide intriguing (and in some cases, frighteningly plausible) answers to questions that might pop up as we continue to test the limits of our existence.
What will happen when we all live to be 150? Mixed media installation When We All Live to 150 by Jaemin Paik presents photo series and family tree of six generations where marriage is a renewable 30-year contract and sibling age gap has expanded. Should parents be allowed to choose their children’s genetic traits? The Transfiguration installation by Agatha Haines showcases five realistic baby sculptures that have been surgically modified to better cope with the future world. What is the future method of euthanasia? Euthanasia Coaster by Julijonas Urbonas presents a model of a roller coaster with a 500-metre fall that would induce a blissful euphoria before killing its passengers with its G-force.
And sending visitors off is Nadine, a Singapore-built social robot created by (and modelled after) Professor Nadia Magnenat Thalmann, Director of the Institute for Media Innovation (IMI) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The exhibition has also included a series of complementary programmes held over the first two weekends of its run. The ‘Future Sapiens’ conversation during the opening weekend talked about human enhancement and the future trajectories of our species with a number of experts including Neil Harbisson and Nadia Magnenat Thalmann. Presented in partnership with LASALLE College of the Arts, last Saturday’s conversation featured Stelarc and talked about his seminal works. Lookout for a feature in Cubes 87!
Human+ runs at the ArtScience Museum until 15 October 2017 from 10am to 7pm daily.
Photography courtesy of Marina Bay Sands.
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