Machines: more human than human

29 May 2015

Filmic representations of cyborgs, robots and machines often expose our fears of the other; we are now at a time when machines are replacing the role of the human in so many industries. Over three simmering days, the future will be interrogated and the question asked, what happens when technology and art collide?

The City backed event, 2970° The Boiling Point, has attracted Stelarc, one of Australia’s most accomplished  artists known for his performance art and most famously, surgically constructing an extra ear on his arm. Stelarc’s work focusses heavily on extending the capabilities of the human body and explores the space where art and technology meet.

Stelarc’s address, titled Alternate Anatomies: Zombies, Cyborgs and Chimeras will expand on the nexus where technology and art exist.

“We now live in an age of circulating, fractal and phantom flesh. Meat, metal and code mesh into unexpected hybrid systems. The monstrous is no longer the alien other. With gene mapping, body hacking, gender reassignment, neural implants and prosthetic augmentation, what a body is and how a body operates has become problematic,” said Professor Stelarc, Director Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA), Curtin University.

TechTonicArt, a one-off exhibition at Bond University on 26 June follows Stelarc’s opening address and features his work Extended Arm, it supports the provocations around how machine-based technology is creating a future in the present.

2970° curator David Pledger, director of pioneering interdisciplinary arts company, not yet it’s difficult (NYID), explained the intent.

“The world is undergoing a societal transformation not experienced since 19th century industrialisation. At the heart of this change is machine-based technology,” Mr Pledger said.

“For centuries, machines have been replacing human agency in industry. That transition is now becoming exponential and a feature of our social, recreational and environmental sectors.

“Inventor and Google magician, Ray Kurzweill, predicts that by 2045 machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined. His singularity is only thirty years into the future - when humans will be one with the machine. Today, machines are embedded in our daily life. The question is: will they be embedded in us?” he said.

The curatorial mechanisms of 2970° - provocations, responses, performances and exhibitions - speaks directly to the title says David Pledger.

“It’s the boiling point for gold, extreme heat catalyses the metal causing it to melt. Art can have this transformational effect when applied to society and we’ll explore this concept through the provocations of the keynote speakers and responses from local artists and cultural operators.”

“With the audience we will interrogate the space of invention, imagination and ideas between the arts and non-arts sectors, like science and medicine,” he said.

2970° is part of a wider strategic direction to accelerate the development of the arts and culture and position the Gold Coast as a place that is distinct, pioneering and unexpected in its cultural offer. Underway for more than a year the roll out of the City’s Culture Strategy 2023 has included increased arts funding, an elevation of Indigenous culture, development of contemporary music and public art plans and new approaches to professional development and funding models.

The creative minds on the Gold Coast have found a champion in City of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate.

“For me backing the arts and culture sector in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games is a simple decision. It creates another dimension to our economy, drives visitor growth and provides our local creatives with mentoring opportunities and more ways for them to explore their art and their ideas,” Mayor Tate said.

“We’re open for business and that includes arts and culture. Our cultural vision is about elevating the sector and incubating excellence, for arts organisations and practitioners the Gold Coast is the place to be.

“We’re embracing the opportunity to lead the way nationally by supporting artists to take risks, develop new and sustainable business models and generate leading cultural product. 2970° The Boiling Point is set to further accelerate culture on the Gold Coast,” he said.

Editor Notes
Stelarc is an internationally renowned performance and installation artist, Distinguished Research Fellow and Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA) at Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Images of his work are available for publication.

When: 26 - 28 June 2015
Where: Bond University and The Arts Centre Gold Coast

Machines: more human than human photo