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. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Orienteering in London - The Freud Museum

Now as we hadn't actually been given any information about the places we were visiting, I thought we were going to see something about Lucian Freud the painter. However it was actually the house where Sigmund Freud lived where his study remains preserved as he used it for the public to see.

The house is obviously in a residential area and isn't that close to any other amenities. The people occupying the surrounding area were generally residents going to and from their homes so the people that visit this museum would have to be people who knew it was there and willing to try find it amongst the houses. You are encouraged to learn about the space and take a good look around.

There is a £3 admission charge which I thought was fairly priced. 

Orienteering in London - Camden Arts Centre

 Third was Camden Arts Centre which is a space for contemporary art exhibitions and education.

The arts centre is situated in a beautiful old building with modern twists just off Finchley Road. We made a bit of an error on the way to here as we assumed that Camden arts centre would be close to Camden town , but we were so wrong it was quite a trek to get there. However we found out in was very close to Finchley tube stations so is actually easy to get to.

The inside was nice and welcoming, there was a cafe and everything was well sign posted so you knew where to go which is helpful. The spaces that the art was housed in were great , nice and light and spacious, so the work wasn't too cramped. The assistants in the rooms were also friendly and helpful and they more than willing to talk to you. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Orienteering in London - The British Library

So next we got to The British Library down Euston Road. The building is situated right next to St Pancras and Kings Cross so has good transport links. Also Euston road is very busy has lots of traffic and buses down it and has lots of other attractions and shops which generates a lot of tourism and consumers. This makes the library location ideal due to the the close vicinity of other amenities and the vast amount of people within area which can possibly visit.

The building to me isn't one that is greatly attractive especially with St Pancras behind it , which greatly contrasts. Also I felt rather overwhelmed and intimidated due to the size of it, this feeling carried on inside.

The interior is modern and vast , I didn't really know where to start or where to go as  it wasn't very well sign posted.

I was surprised to find out that you had to be 18 to join the library which I thought was a bit exclusive. I didn't want to join as I thought my uni library provided what I needed and I just felt overwhelmed with the vastness of the place.

Orienteering in London - The Showroom

So as a start to my course we got given a little orienteering task. I got given the name of 5 places to go and find and write a little about them.
  • The Showroom
  • The Freud Museum
  • Parliament Hill 
  • The British Library 
  • Camden arts centre 
The first place we visited in my group of 5 was The Showroom.

The Showroom is a small gallery space that shows contemporary artwork by artists that haven't had much previous exposure in London.

The space is situated in a residential area just off Edgware road from where we walked from a bus stop to the gallery. Edgware road was buzzing with people and had a lot of shops and cafes. We also passed through back streets where we came across markets selling domestics goods and groceries and people going about their day to day life. From the journey from the bus stop to The showroom I got a feeling that the area is quite multicultural and that there is a lot going on , however when I reached the immediate area around the gallery I wasn't sure if it was best placed as it was quiet and I didn't know if the type of people that were making the area surrounding so busy would be the type of people who would want to access contemporary art

The building certainly stood out and made me want to go in. We had to ring the bell to get in, which was initially quite intimidating and made the play feel quite exclusive. My concerns were dashed when the door was opened as the gallery assistants were very welcoming. The inside was very cosy and the cushions and chairs really encouraged you to relax in the space and engage in the work.

The work was heavily based on people, domestic and living issues which actually fitted well with the situation of the gallery.

When we arrived we were asked if we could fill out a form about the gallery and the show we had seen and the assistants were very appreciative that we did it. there was also a separate comments book which we could write it. This made me feel that the space really valued it's audiences and visitors opinions and the experience they had whilst at the showroom.

I really enjoyed discovering this place and would recommend visiting it if you are in the area.