Biotechnology and the Post-Human
I recently moderated an interesting conference: ‘ Biotechnology and the Post Human’, hosted by Goldsmiths/University of London and Lumen Art Projects –https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=13210
Since the Reformation and the rise of liberal humanism, we believe we have agency, full possession of our own unique feelings and motivations. But in a constantly changing world, we increasingly wonder if we are truly independent beings; can we intentionally control all of our actions and the changes within us? And if not, how do we interact with the wide range of forces all around us? Is our anthropogenic perspective broad enough?
Three groups of emerging digital artists consider about how their explorations in digital arts have led them to anticipate a posthuman perspective. All of them are devoted to immersive digital environments. They have exhibited widely both in the UK, elsewhere in Europe, and in Asia. In recent years, they have also received Lumen Prize nominations and awards. https://lumenprize.com/
The Danish/British Art collective Baum & Leahy https://www.baumleahy.com/ address their fascination with multispecies aesthetics. @AmandaBaum and @RoseLeahey work across wide range of media and disciplines and focus on the alternative reality of the microbiocene, in particular the human co-existence with the microbiome. Their digital and sculptural works shift our natural perspective towards new foundation myths and other material manifestations of a biological universe we can’t see.
@NicolaSchauerman, and the Margate-based creative duo Genetic Moo http://www.geneticmoo.com also re-position us to consider human links to early evolutionary ancestors, including worms and starfish. Their digital work revolves around themes drawn from popular science and horror. Like the Greek goddess Circe, who could transform people into beasts, Genetic Moo transfigures its audience into zoomorphic creatures, who undergo ‘directed evolution’.
Berlin-based artist and choreographer Christian ‘Mio’ Loclair, https://christianmioloclair.com/ originally trained as a computer scientist and had a parallel career as a hip/hop dancer. As a young performer he turned himself into a robot, and his body followed machine-movement matrices that he defined. His digital work still follows rules, but instead of directing the robot, @ChristianMioLoclair uses neural networks and algorithms that act autonomously to direct movement, opening up artistic experience to unpredictable mutations. Are we witnessing algorithms that can become conscious of their own movements?
The post-human world challenges our preconceptions of creativity. We can begin to reconsider what it means to be “human” and to have human-centred agency. We sense a more collective and often unfamiliar purpose that can extend across other life forms, even some that are not ‘alive’ in the familiar biological sense. The posthumanist perspective anticipates a larger evolving super-organism – we participate in this world, but don’t necessarily control it. And yet, as we reconsider our traditional ideas about purpose, agency, and creativity, we can still be amazed and delighted by our entanglement with new environments.