We are all cyborgs…
as Donna Haraway proclaimed in her 1991 manifesto. The fusion of man and machine in popular culture, scientific exploration and artistic production in the late 20th century, was loaded with fear, alongside great aspirations, of genetic engineering, technological advances and mechanisms of control. However, the anxiety of the future that was expressed in 1990s art with the exploration of digital interfaces and the disintegration of the body, seems now to have dissipated – our reality of this is far less distressing than what was envisioned 20 years ago.
Black Dog Press’s recent publication and accompanying exhibition at WORK Gallery, See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception, takes up the post-humanist trajectory of art once again, but reframes it within one aspect that has largely been brushed over – the senses – and asks you to consider how trans-human prosthetics alter individual perception and the experience of reality – or what it might feel like to be a cyborg?
In Didier Faustino’s (G)host in the (S)hell, perception and appearance are altered by a relatively benign substance that through excess becomes deformative. Faustino’s video records a performance in which the artist painstakingly chews bubbly pink gum that when adequately softened, is applied to his face. With time, the sickly sweet substance turns the artist into a monster, his breathing becomes increasingly laboured, and we can only cringe at the sticky reality underneath it all – the host must truly be in hell.
Extending sweets into cerebrally triggered sensation, Beta Tank’s Eye Candy project creates a proposal for an object that is stimulating to both the tastebuds and the mind. Eye Candy aims to ‘transmit vivid emotive images into your mind’s eye’ in six distinct flavours through an electrode-laden lollipop – a fictional creation based on very real existing technology. A true synaesthetic world where image and colour are on the tip of your tongue.
Ann Hamilton’s curious series of photographs, Face to Face, appear, at first glance, to present the world through the aperture of the eyelid as faces hazily emerge from a distinctive frame. However, Hamilton is working with the same portal as Eyecode – transforming her mouth into a tiny, functional camera. Her ‘mouth seeing’ extends the senses of the mouth beyond taste – here becoming the location of vision.
And turning vision back at you, Golan Levin’s Eyecode, allows you to see yourself seeing, and others seeing you as well. Levin’s high-tech programme unwarningly records your eye movement as you stand in front of the screen, and plays it back to you alongside hundreds of others who have stood there before you. An uncanny, and quite intriguing, experience indeed, founded in mechanisms of surveillance.
What sets these works apart from the previous generation of artists is a sense of humour and intimacy – an engagement with the body that is less founded in fear, and rather in intrigue and the exploration of potentials. The question has been reframed to curiously ask, ‘What does this feel like?’ – and the possibilities of reality presented are quite enticing indeed.