The cyborgs are coming!
May 13, 2017
Delve into a future world where the lines between fiction
and reality are blurred in ArtScience Museum's latest exhibition HUMAN+: The
Future of Our Species, opening on 20 May.
Advances in genetic engineering, biotechnology and nanotechnology that not long ago seemed purely science fiction are now real. Cyborgs, superhumans and clones are alive amongst us today. What does it mean to be human now? What will it feel like to be a human a hundred years from now? Should we continue to embrace modifications to our minds, bodies and daily lives, or are there boundaries we shouldn’t overstep?
These are the issues at the heart of HUMAN+: The Future of Our Species.
Showcasing the work of 40 international artists, scientists, technologists and
designers, the show explores possible future paths for our species. It includes major names from the fields of robotics, biotechnology, synthetic biology and artificial intelligence, including the world's first living cyborg, Neil Harbisson; Australia's leading performance artist, Stelarc; and Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, who grow sculptures from living tissue.
A collaboration between ArtScience Museum, Science Gallery at Trinity College
Dublin, and The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), this
cutting-edge exhibition asks what it means to be human in a world of artificial
intelligence, life-like robots and genetic modification. It probes the social, ethical and
environmental questions raised by using technology to modify ourselves. Will virtual
reality be the new reality? What would happen if a robot knew what we wanted
before we knew ourselves? In the future, who will have ownership of our genetic
From spectacular demonstrations of the latest robotic technologies, to challenging
contemporary artworks, intriguing design prototypes, and exciting innovations from Singapore, HUMAN+ imagines many possible futures. “When the human genome was sensationally revealed in 2001, humanity had for the
first time a genetic portrait of ourselves. From this moment onwards possibilities
imagined by writers, filmmakers and artists became plausible reality. Much like
computers, genes, it seems, can be programmed. Life can be designed. HUMAN+ reveals that in this new age, scientists are making technological creations that can mimic, impersonate and simulate human life. At the same time, artists are making laboratories their new studios, fashioning artworks from the very fabric of life.
Our understanding of what is 'natural' and what is 'synthetic', and our entire notion of what it means to be human, is shifting, evolving and mutating. HUMAN+ takes us on a provocative tour through this brave new world,” said Honor Harger, Executive Director of ArtScience Museum. “The exhibition is about the evolution of our species and therefore about its future. It explores the boundaries of what it means to be human – the boundaries of the body and the species as well as what is socially and ethically acceptable. HUMAN+ also invites visitors to contemplate their preferred future of the human species from a scientific and technological perspective,” said Vicenç Villatoro, Director of the CCCB. “The works on display seek to explore the evolution of humans. Presented through the expert views of surgeons, scientists, researchers, artists, designers, inventors, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, we hope to respond to the ultimate question of our time – what is the future like for our species?” said Lynn Scarff Director, Science Gallery Dublin.
Spanning four themed galleries, HUMAN+ presents a wide range of artwork and
scientific research that shows how our perception of humanity is being transformed by science and technology.
The first section of the show presents physical and biological ways in which we have augmented our minds and bodies. From prosthetics that augment bodily functions to medical interventions that change how we think, this part of the show explores what it means to be a cyborg today.
A key highlight is work by Neil Harbisson, the world’s first human to be officially
recognised as a cyborg. Born without the ability to see colour, Harbisson, who will be in Singapore for the opening of the show, wears a prosthetic antenna called “eyeborg” that allows him to hear colour. This antenna has been implanted in his skull since 2003. Also included are works by star performance artist, Stelarc, plus captivating images and fascinating prototypes by Aimee Mullins, Chris Woebken and many others.
The second section of the show explores the changing nature of social relationships, due to advances in technology. It includes provocative artwork by Addie Wagenknecht that explores howmotherhood might evolve in a world of robotics. Her artwork depicts a robot arm that gently rocks a bassinet whenever a baby cries. Also included are cutting-edge artworks by Louis-Phillippe Demers from Singapore, Cao Fei, Yves Gellie, S.W.A.M.P and many others.
Authoring Environments This section analyses how we are transforming the very environment we live in due to far-reaching advances in science and technology. It includes The Human Pollination Project by Laura Allcorn, a pollination tool kit, designed to be won as a fashion accessory. It raises questions about the social and environmental implications of the collapse of bee populations, which are responsible for pollinating the plants that grow into the food we eat.
Also included are intriguing speculative artworks and design proposals by Antony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Liam Young, The Centre for PostNatural History, Robert Zhao and many others. Life at the Edges This section of the exhibition explores the limits of human life and longevity. What does it mean to create life, or extend a person's lifespan?
It includes a compelling and challenging work by designer, Agatha Haines, who has created five sculptures of human babies, each with a surgically implemented body modification. Also included are living artworks designed in a laboratory by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, and works which explore the end of life by Julijonas Urbonas, and James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau.
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