Text by Karla Evans
There is no question to the relentless speed at which technology and science are evolving; it appears in the palms of our hands in our ever-accessible phones and materialises before our eyes in our multi-tasking computers. See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception at Work Gallery takes on this Herculean topic and instead of playing on technology’s direct effect on the world around us, hones in on its more controversial impact on our very own bodies.
The exhibition brings together artists from all creative genres featuring architectural sketches of buildings never realised, performance art videos played on iPads and fully installed robot-like structures. There is no shortage of varied mediums or pure aesthetic stimulation, which after references to prosthetics, cybernetics and neuroscience in the information leaflet, is a happy find.
An interactive work that immediately gets the ‘science versus self‘ debate started is Golan Levin’s Eyecon. A large Mac computer with an inbuilt camera captures a two-second video of your eyes; the footage then instantly appears on the screen before you and is surrounded by other eyeballs that have participated moments earlier. The simple act of seeing your own two eyes playing on a recorded loop confronts you with your own being: it is the natural looking directly at the artificial and the very crux of the exhibition itself.
Typically when technology is the focus of a show there’s no escaping its dark references to a dystopian society not unlike Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World. Australian performance artist STELARC echoes these implications in a video piece in which he steps into and wears a giant metal contraption that sends him across the room without control. It is both oddly funny and extremely dark; raising the question, can we contently coexist with technology flourishing at this rapid speed?
On a similar topic of body extension German installation artist Rebecca Horn is given an appropriate appearance with stills from her cult book Unicorn (Einhorn). Horn was the subject of a Hayward retrospective in 2005 and remains a leading figure in the art world’s extrapolation of the body. Her famous modification suits are pictured featuring outfits with vertically projecting unicorn horns attached and overalls with too-long sleeves. All of which subtly implies the worrisome prospect of body modification in a more literal and definitive sense.
But, this isn’t an exhibition inciting fear or seriousness, if anything See Yourself Sensing’s overriding feeling is of playfulness and opportunity. Artist Didier Faustino humorously covers his face in a mask of pink chewing gum to demonstrate the relationship between skin and its surroundings and design lab BetaTank take the edge off in a high-tech lollipop implanted with microchips that lights up on your tongue’s first touch.
It is also encouraging to see the projects that hold potential and actively harness technology in hope of bettering the bodies of the world. Industrial Facility sets out to conquer unattractive hearing aids with a pair of clear framed glasses in which a tiny microphone and speakers are cleverly set. Following the same brief is Auger and Loizeau who’ve impressively created a miniscule hearing aid that can be fitted inside a tooth: an internalisation of technology that hopes to one day sit alongside medicinal triumphs such as pins for broken legs and pacemakers.
As with many group shows offering a wide scope of both mediums and artists there is no one overriding thought channelled in the exhibition but instead a refreshing mixture of positive initiatives that glimpse into the not so distant future and fantastical creations that yearn for a purely artistic response.
See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception runs until 24 September.
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Didier Faustino [G]host in the [S]hell (2008) (Detail)
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Michel Rein.
Posted on 23 August 2011