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MODERNA MUSEET MALMÖ, SWEDEN

Moderna Museet Malmö is now presenting the second chapter of the extensive video-based exhibition project THE NEW HUMAN, continuing our exploration of the human condition in a rapidly changing world. This chapter of the project has the subtitle Knock, Knock, Is Anyone Home? and searches for remaining traces of human life, while examining the fading line between man and machine.

This show curated by Joa Ljungberg presented video works by Ed Atkins, Harun Farocki, Kerstin Hamilton, Helen MartenDaria Martin, Ursula Mayer, Mika Rottenberg, SUPERFLEX and Ryan Trecartin.

I FOUND THIS EXHIBITION SUPER EXCITING AND SOO RELEVANT TO MY PROJECTS. 

What engaged me the most was a film by Daria Martin (an artist whose 16mm films I had already been exposed to at the Maureen Paley gallery some weeks before) because it very straight forward dealt with posthumanism and artificial intelligence in relation to physical bodies (!!!). This video particularly inspired me to proceed with a little project that I have on the blog http://swipingetc.tumblr.com/ where i wish to explore further the translations between virtual and “real” (like I did in Marnie and the Real Pikachu in Unit 2) through kinesthetics.
SOFT MATERIALS, video, 2004

Soft Materials was shot in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich where scientists research ‘embodied artificial intelligence’. This cutting edge area of AI produces robots which, rather than being programmed from the ‘head down’ by a computer ‘brain’, instead learn to function through the experience of their physical bodies.

Soft Materials introduces to these robots two performers, one man and one woman, trained in body awareness, acutely sensitive to the nuances of movement, primed to mimic the robots in a play of reciprocity. These performers shed skins of soft fabric, bear their joints like the frank structure of a machine, and, nude, approach the robots as if they were sentient beings. Creating intimate relationships that are in turns tender, funny and eerie, they bend flexible human fantasy around tough materials.

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Also it relates somewhat to Soul Chain and my overall research. Quotes from the introduction to the show:

Several of the works in this chapter seem to point to a shift—perhaps a regression in human evolution, or a transformation into something new.

New technologies have the capacity to infiltrate our bodies and turn us into cyborgs, thus dissolving the categories we have used to divide the world into opposites, like living and non-living or natural and artificial.

The digital revolution has fundamentally changed the way we relate to the world and to each other, and there is no longer a clear dividing line between actual reality and virtual reality.

We communicate and socialize more and more through computers and screens.

A question that arises is whether it’s even going to be feasible to be “human” in the long run. Or if we—consciously or unconsciously—will develop into something else, into a new kind of being better suited to life in a high-tech world of our own creation.

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Magnus Niska was the first person to have a prosthesis that is permanently implanted to his body connected with the nerves and muscles. He can control it with only his brain.

For a group show in Stockholm I created this series of images. They are face paintings, enacted, photographed and later digitally manipulated and further “painted” in Photoshop by me.

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Boat Face, Tinder Face, Jesus Camp on Netflix Face, Picasso Face, Valerie Face, Mickey Face and Ida Face.

For this project I was asked to show face paints and I decided to weave in my interest, curiosity and opinion on a posthumanist approach to identity and appropriation of different identities. I also realised that I’ve used my face to loosen up painting as a medium and trick myself into being both freer and more challenged than in front of a white canvas. I realise I always strive for playfulness and a free creative flow reminding of a child’s, in my practice. I think the act of painting my face is both a shortcut to a freer painting practice but there is also a performative aspect to it. When I put on a mask I take on different properties or qualities, it helps me feel less bound to my body which is just what the posthumanist ideas that intrigue me the most signifies.

 

These are my notes for my statement in the printed brochure.

body as canvas

There’s a playful element to body painting that eases up the medium. It reminds more of make-up than painting, a field of art that hasn’t got any heavy historical status

Dress up, taking on different personas – posthumanity, when technology challenges the idea of human nature and its dual approaches to gender, sexuality and humanity versus other species. Even technology itself can’t be simply separated from humanity.
Even the separation between man and machine is questioned today as Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology etc. is developing.

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Soul Chain is

an exploration of yourself and a channel for expression,

a celebration of the creative individual and the infinite possibilities of a collective,

a physical presence capsuled in a digital reality.

In this ongoing experiment participants are using their bodies as instruments, allowing their movements to travel across screens, adding on to a chain of of joined individuals, moving together in an unforeseen pattern.

Contributing to this project means recording a video of yourself that relates to the previous video posted on the project blog. How you choose to translate the movement is up to you. The material will then be treated and presented as an art project.

  1. Emergence

emergence is a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.”

To me one of the reasons it is interesting to create an art work that is interactive and built up by individual creative forces, is that it creates an “unforeseen pattern”. As in emergence in nature:

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(A termite “cathedral” mound produced by a termite colony offers a classic example of emergence in nature./Wiki)

The videos that make up Soul Chain are very different. Some are more interesting individually than others, some contributors are experienced dancers, some are amateurs, some choses to move in very non-mannered ways and others take the opportunity to act out rather dramatic images.

The fact that a collective can achieve far greater things than a single individual also relates to the superorganism theories of Bruce Lipton.

As stated in previous post I wanted to work with this theme of the collective and still keep the individual creative mind in focus.

2. Dance

“Anna Halprin: Experience as dance”, biographical book about dancer Anna Halprin written by Jannet Ross.

I’ve actively chosen to not use the word dance to much when introducing Soul Chain. The main reason for that is because dance has many meanings and to most people it probably signifies something doctrinal or social rather than spiritual and self-explorational. To further understand dance  and it’s properties and dimensions I’ve been reading about a pioneer in the field of contemporary dance and performance, Anna Halprin (1920-).

These are some quotes I gathered from the book:

“The first stage of being a dancer is self exploration, then comes expression.”

“Thinking is inquiry and any act of inquiry begins with a problem and proceeds, through testing of possible solutions, to a resolution” John Dewey

To me that last quote from American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey, is relevant because I think problem solving is a very big part of creativity and the kind of playfulness that I strive for in all my work. A reason why the soul chain performance is quite long (around 6 minutes) is because I experience myself that it’s only a few minutes in a performance like this that the creative part of the mind is sparked. And dancing is such a clear image of a creative process:

  • solving a problem/testing of different solutions
  • taking inspiration from outer sources (music, other people etc)
  • listening to your inner guidance
  • expressively communicating a feeling to your surrounding

3. Posthumanism

“The Posthuman is not a defined individual but become or embody different identities.”

I’ve taken interest in Posthumanism because it seems very essential in this technological age.

I especially consider the views on identity important for my practice. I like the idea that there is nothing such as “human nature”, that a human is a flexible, floating being by definition, inhabiting a physical body but not bound to it – neither technically nor culturally.

4. Animal senses

“Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology”, David Abram, 2007.

Whereas the posthumanist ideas that I’ve absorbed might focus on the humans separation from (as David Abram would put it) “human and earthly flesh”, I’ve also dug into some theory that rather emphasises the impact the “earthly” dimension has on our bodies and therefore our thoughts —> feelings —> lifes. I don’t see this as a conflicting thought at all.

I find a very interesting and relevant aspect of movement and dance is the fact that it is a very “earthly”, “primal”, “animal” act.

I recently started babysitting a 1 year-old. This baby is new to this world, he doesn’t have any preconsumptions about social life, he’s more animal than us mature, reading and refelctive people. Which makes it only more interesting that he responds unexceptionally to rhythms, breaking up in a big smile, starting to move his body.