'See Yourself Sensing' Exhibition
As babies we couldn't help but revel in our sensory experiences. Jangling keys, the texture of sand and the taste of new foods intrigued us and captivated our attention. Whatever happened? As grown-ups we plough through the world like automata barely noticing the how hard our senses unremittingly work for us. If you've fallen out of touch with your senses, a quick visit to See Yourself Sensing: redefining human perception at the Work Gallery in London's King's Cross should remedy that.
The exhibition is inspired by a new book of the same name by architect and multimedia artist Madeline Schwartzman, and challenges conventional thinking about the way we perceive our own bodies and those of others. Art works play with the senses and tend to incorporate futuristic design concepts, often resulting in cyborg creations, utopian or dystopian predictions of the future, or strange experimental set-ups.
A number of the works are based on collaborations with scientists and these were often the most successful. Neck Clamp and Impactor by Sitraka Rakotoniaina and Andrew Friend is based on research from the University of Nottingham into shock-absorbent nanomaterials that are being used to design body armour for the military. The duo turn this idea on its head, asking whether we might use this new technology for more playful purposes.
The device comes in two parts, one consisting of a neck brace with a shock-absorbent target, the other a giant mechanical contraption that looks like a kind of hybrid between a torpedo, a spider, and some bicycle spokes linked to a powerful motor. The idea is that one person wears the neck brace, while another fires the torpedo at the shock-absorbent pad on the brace. The concept exemplifies that developments in science mean we no longer need to rely on our natural instincts, yet struggle to overcome our primal impulses in order to trust new technologies.
Works like this feel fresh, using clever designs to challenge our acceptance of the latest technological developments, and speculate on original ways me might use them. Other works, though, feel outdated, possibly because this is an exhibition around a theme, not a new show, so many of the works are quite old. Some of these offer an interesting retrospective, others just feel stale. Reality is fast catching up with science fiction, and some of the projects seem to underestimate quite how far the technologies have come in bridging that gap.
Some much-needed energy is injected into the exhibition by the only interactive exhibit, Eyecode by Gavin Levin (see top image). The concept of this interactive display, through which you see yourself seeing, fits snugly within the exhibition's remit. Put simply, it's a computer screen which takes pictures of your eyes when you look at it. As you approach, the screen is covered with a grid of eyes of the people just gone but as you try and work out what the screen means, you'll feel a glimmer of recognition when some of the eyes become highlighted in a subtle blue hue. They are your own. It's mesmerizing, and the more you look, the more of the eyes on the screen become your own. The result is a screen covered with fleeting fragments of your own eye movements from different angles, and snapshots of your mouth - it seemed as if little pieces of my face were in conversation with each other. It's a unique way to look at yourself, and cleverly taps into our propensity to eye up the human body.
Other works are conceptually and visually fascinating, such as Susana Soares's Pathogen Hunter, yet lack enough information for visitors to really understand what science they are based on and what kind of questions they raise. That's a shame when Schwartzman's book is filled with thought-provoking and relevant explanations of the artworks and how they relate to scientific developments.
The contrast between tantalising or terrifying glimpses into our possible future selves and other works that are playful and fun cannot fail to get your mind whirring. But then again, that's just one perception - you might see it completely differently.
Source: New Scientist /...
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