Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Super Human

A couple of weeks ago I managed to catch the SUPERHUMAN exhibition at the Welcome Collection.

The exhibition explored human enhancement and are strive to better ourselves from 600 BCE to 2050.

It asks questions as to what human enhancement actually is, what we consider it to be and how we can define it?
  • super powers
  • cosmetic surgery 
  • prosthetic limbs
  • medication to improve performance / life span 
or less obvious ones
  • glasses
  • hearing aids
  • contraceptive implant 
  • IVF techniques 
  • smart phones

Smart phones and computers have become a new way of storing memories and have become extensions of out anatomy, with the way technology is going how long is it going to be till they are actually a part of our anatomy ? 

Prosthetics provide enhancement for loss of function or body parts. However they can be for more than just for a loss of function. They use the example that a glass eye can never see, this shows that we strive for normality or at least the appearance of normality. This then leads on to cosmetic surgery which can be used to correct aspects of people's bodies through injury or birth defects. However the use of cosmetic surgery is a big business for purely aesthetic use. People are continuously striving for better , more perfect, 'normal' bodies or the outrageous extremes to make them in some way feel better about themselves.

This figure of Icarus shows that human enhancement and the pursuit of superpowers is an age old thing. In Greek Mythology Icarus's father made them both wings so they could escape the island the had been exiled to. Even though Icarus was warned not to fly to close the sun, as his wings were held together with wax , he used his new power to soar higher and higher and eventually then sun melted the wax and he fell into the sea. This highlights the debate around human enhancement of what is possible and how far should we take it. 

These are a pair of artificial legs for children. A huge amounts of these were made especially around the time when a lot of children were affected in the womb by their mothers taking thalidomide whilst pregnant. The government responded to this tragedy by providing artificial limbs  however they were very uncomfortable and heavy for children so they weren't very popular. Prosthetic limbs combine the need of practicality and function with also the appearance of something more 'normal'. 

The exhibition explored the use of drugs for enhancement especially in sports. This is called the Wizzinator, it is a device that was originally marketed as a way to deliverer clean urine samples for athletes. It comes as a kit which includes dried urine, heat packs to keep the urine at body temperature and a false penis that comes in different colours. I found this quite amusing as my childish side came out but also fascinating as I never knew there was a product like this that was manufactured for this purpose. It is now marketed as a sex toy now as the company that produced them were prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud the US government.

This is a still from a video performance called Recortepor La Linea (cut through the line) by Regina Jose Galindo. The video was filmed in Venezuela which is the country with the third highest rates of cosmetic surgery. The artist stood naked and vulnerable whilst a leading surgeon marked on her body changes he would make to achieve a 'normal' body, thus taking away all her body's individuality. The video appears very intimate as she just stands there and lets him mark all these changes allover her body. When I look at the woman I see a beautiful body but it is amazing how many changes the surgeon would make to achieve the 'perfect' body, when I don't see any need to change her body. It becomes quite obsessive which reflects todays society's tendencies towards body modification and enhancement.

I went to see the exhibition as I like to deal with issues related to people, especially issues which can have extreme and controversial views. I am also fascinated by the fascination we have with our bodies and our strive to modify them and constant endeavours to better them. There was a lot more to this exhibition that what I have written but these are key things thats I was interested in. 

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