Are We Human?

Evolution and Art at Inspace

Feature by Mark Daniels | 25 Nov 2009
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The opening season of events at Inspace in Edinburgh has paid homage to the work of Charles Darwin, starting at the beginning, with the evolution of complex behavior in lifeforms and ending by examining how, 3.4 billion years later we are here, in an informatic age. The catalyst has been the bicentenary celebrations of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’.

For artist Brian Hewitt, life is data. His work ‘Endosymbiont (Life is a Sexually Transmitted Disease) references genetic mutations in bacteria. The DNA sequences on display at Inspace are changing as the simulated (and stimulated) organisms are evolving as part of the forthcoming 'Are We Human?' exhibition opening on December 5th.

We live with the new realities made possible by the evolution of technologies that process information. These things that make us smart pervade modern culture and are changing the way we experience ourselves, each other, our communities and our planet - transforming the story of what it is to be human. The modular micro-community of Tanja Vujinovic’s ‘Supermono 2’ is a part of ongoing cycle of works ‘Discrete Events in Noisy Domains’. This orgy of soft toy like shapes incorporates custom smart electronics or simple animatronic components. Pick them up. Go on. Your actions will be recoded on the fly into data streams and audio and visual information.

The Black Estate artist collective uses new technology to rationalize, readjust and re-envision the meaning of ‘being’ in this time of profound global change. Darkly evocative landscapes, mutated flora and fauna serve as a reminder of the sacredness of nature. Remember that our capacity to be intelligent is affected by the external environment in which we are evolving. This poses the question of whether as intelligent beings our impulse to dominate our environment is relatively superficial given its evolutionary control over us. In the work ‘One’ you can assume the role of a god. The microcosm evolving before your eyes reflects and subverts the natural systems in which we live. As we struggle with the natural world, trying to imagine something better, must we concede to failure?

After exploring the relationship between the environment and intelligent life the exhibition ends with an examination of human invention in the age of informatics. The ‘Perpetual Storytelling Apparatus’ invites you to play six degrees of separation through seven million patent drawings. None of Kevin Bacon.

Are We Human ? Julius von Bismarck & Benjamin Maus, Brian Hewitt, Simon Kirby, The Black Estate, Erick Oh, Yoon Chung Han, Guamtam Rangan & Mubbasir Kapadia and Tanja Vujinovic. 5th Dec 2009 to 10th Jan 2010, Wed to Sun, 10am-6pm. Closed 25th & 26th Dec 2009 & 1st & 2nd Jan 2010. Inspace, 1 Chricton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB T: 0131 650 2750