Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Transhuman bio-artists transforming life

They are seven "bio-artists" who are taking biotechnology and rendering it into art.

The site io9, one of my favorites as you'll recall, posted this list of artists last week.  Here's a rundown of the list:

Stelarc--(pictured above) I've blogged about him before.  With his cybernetic arm, the point of Stelarc's work is that the human body is becoming increasingly obsolete. We project ourselves further and further into our environment, growing enmeshed with it and heading down the one-way road to becoming cyborgs.  In one performance art installation, he allowed his body to be controlled remotely by electrical muscle stimulators connected to the Internet.  He also has a cell-cultivated ear surgically attached to his left arm.  Now that's dedication to your art.

Orlan--For this artist, surgical procedures are all part of the performance.  She says that this is all an effort to show how technology can modify human appearance and how fungible humanity can truly be.  One particularly heavy statement she has made is having her face altered to fit the ideal of feminine beauty as rendered by classical male artists. She also has several striking works of face painting.

Genesis Preyer P-Orridge--a British musician, poet, and artist, P-Orridge is best known for Project Pandrogeny, his effort to create a post-gender amalgamation of himself and his wife.

Eduardo Kac--the transgenic artist who created a green glowing bunny.  Read more about him here.

Natasha Vita-More--what can I say about this genius that I haven't already said?

Micha Cardenas--is a new media artist who looks at how wearable computing and other technologies can extend and morph the human body.  Her Second Life performance of "Becoming a Dragon" is something to see.  In it, her avatar literally becomes a fire-breathing dragon named Azdel Slade.  Does this mean we all have malleable identities? It's like something from a William Gibson novel such as Idoru.

Aimee Mullins--is a Paralympic athlete who in 1999 teamed with Alexander McQueen to show the integration point between fashion and prosthesis.

What does all this mean?  Well, I suppose one take is that just when you might think that humanity has reached an artistic dead-end, that you're thinking to yourself "it's all been done," revolutionaries like these seven come along.  Now, in the postmodern age, the artist's canvas is the human body itself.

I also believe that the work of these seven is demonstrative of transhumanism not being a matter of hardware and certainly not just science fiction.  This is the human spirit at work, finding new outlets through new technologies.  It is not something to be feared.

Not entirely, anyway.

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