Transhumanist Conditions, at the Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington). The exhibit runs through April 3. The gallery is open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday. For more details, call 703-248-6800 or visit www.arlingtonartscenter.org.
Transhuman Conditions deals with the notion of people expanding, altering and possibly abandoning their biological bodies altogether to live eternally in a mechanical matrix.
When the word “obsolete” comes up, nothing comes to mind faster than the world of machines. Can you imagine living eternity in the equivalent of a Betamax machine? “Fred is over there in the Commodore 64, but the mother board is fried and we can’t get parts, and oh well… we didn’t like Fred all that much anyway.”
Still, aside from the absurdity of its purists theoretical pursuits, there are valid real world aspects to the notion. We have sought to augment damaged bodies with bio-mechanical interfaces, be that a digital hearing device, or a carbon fiber limb that allows an amputee to run again.
Of the ten artists whose works are on view here, Chicago artist CarianaCarianne seems to have the best grip on it all. Mind you, she’s still pretty far out there, but she has taken a fairly traditional tact to it all. Her multi-part work titled “Drawing and Being Drawn” recalls the work of Industrial Designers working at the theoretical end of the spectrum.
Like the Transhumanists, they’re often labeled Futurists. Industrial Designers doing such work often seek to over reach current technologies, ideating devices as inspiration for the research and development engineers.
CarianaCarianne’s designs repeatedly hit on the notion of bifurcating, doubling or combining split bodily functions such as sight, hearing and vocal chord vibrations. What is less clear is why CarianaCarianne is unhappy with the capacities she was born with, or is it all a metaphor for some notion of self that floats just beyond our reach?
Whichever the case maybe, her multimedia presentations are involved and challenging to decode. Consisting of patent drawings, device parts, and mini projectors screening short video loops on small white blocks, it’s well executed.
New York architects and environmental designers Arakawa & Gins design wacky complex environments that in theory keep people young by challenging their brains, and bodies. Whether the designs work as intended is unknown, but they do look like fun places to vist. Living in them may be another thing altogether.
The work of three video artists occupy the two downstairs galleries. Shana Moulton’s video of a young woman seeking to improve herself with home exercise equipment seems at its most cogent point when she moves, and all the ‘stuff’ around her moves with her, leaving the furniture in place.
Some of the most satisfying work in the building are the abstract paintings of resident artist Monica Stroik on the third floor. This series of works features winding snake like bands that enter and leave zones of refined and raw work. It’s some of the best work I’ve seen her do yet.
Note: “We Have Decided Not to Die,” the Transhumanist Condition show artists panel discussion is this Thursday, March 18 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, e-mail them to [email protected]