humansbeingdigital: Exhibition Review

humansbeingdigital at The Lowry.

When I first saw the robot head, I didn’t realise it was motorised. Then, I noticed the cogs slowly turn the flowing brunette hair. It reminded me of a young girl, playing with her hair, twirling it around her finger. This robotic, moving sculpture made me think of a human action and emotion. This was my first impressions of the work at ‘humansbeingdigital’ at The Lowry.

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I briefly touched on how art and technology are merging in my review of the Lightwaves 2017 event in December. ‘humansbeingdigital’ truly does encapsulate that idea. This is an exhibition which features a range of work that makes us question how we view art and our digital surroundings. Including installations and video, digital paintings and robots, can a machine make us react the same way as an oil painting would? Or will it create a new reaction to art, one we haven’t yet explored in today’s modern age?

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‘Heart/Lungs/Brains’ is a twist on traditional artwork, as the artist, Pascal Haudressy, (a French artist whose work “links between the remote past and the future, and between science and myth”) describes them as digital paintings. At humansbeingdigital we see three moving images of organs displayed on individual LED screens. These organs pulsate and move as they would inside the body, the red heart beats and the green lungs breath. Light dashes around the blue animated brain like brainwaves shooting across thoughts. You can’t help being drawn into the ‘paintings’, mesmerised by the pulsation and the movement of the detail. The clarity of the LED screen is as eye-catching as a billboard advert, yet as detailed as any painting in a gallery. Definitely a stand out piece of the exhibition for us, purely for the beauty and detail in the work, as well as the soft pulsating movements.

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So apparently I am only 0.4% hipster! I was not allowed in the bar. ‘Only recognised hipsters admitted.’ ‘A Hipster Bar’ is an installation by artist Max Dovey which uses facial recognition software to judge whether you are hipster enough to be allowed in. If you are over 90% hipster, the barrier opens and allows you into the bar. I must admit, I was a little disappointed that I was only 0.4% hipster! Our Co-Founder on the other hand was 100% hipster! So he was allowed to enter. Max’s work ‘explores the political narratives that emerge from technology and digital culture and manifest into situated projects – bars, game-shows, banks and other participatory scenarios’, so it is clear that is work is suitable for the humansbeigindigital exhibition. This installation links back to how we live our lives online today, surrounded by selfies and adverts of ‘cool’ people, whilst we judge them from the other side of the screen. It’s like that episode of Black Mirror ‘Nosedive’, where others rate you on everything you do, and if you are below a rating of 4 out of 5, you aren’t allowed certain privileges. We may not be that far away from this way of life? If you haven’t seen Black Mirror, you need to get on that immediately after reading this! Bars and night clubs in real life already don’t let people in if they aren’t dressed correctly. This installation is a reflection of that. At first it seemed like a bit of fun, but I think this piece is the most ‘real’ piece in this exhibition.

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The dating world seems fully digitalized now, with Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Grinder (to name a few) all in app form, ready for you to date at the touch ofa button. It is now more unusual for people to say they met at a bar than it is to say they met online. With a ‘background in quantum physics working at the intersection of art, science and technology,’ artist Libby Heaney’s work fits in perfectly with the digital art exhibition. The artwork ‘Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot’ plays with the idea of the digital dating scene. Displayed on an interactive LED screen, you can read conversations taken from a dating app. The conversation is between an unsuspecting, real human, and a robot, ‘posing as characters from the 20th century literature classic ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover.’ Some of the conversations don’t ‘work’, in that they do not make sense as a conversation. Others however, the computer has fooled the human counterpart, and the conversation flows. This is more digital-being-human than the other way round. But it goes to show how willing we are to communicate with someone, or something. We believe what we read/see online, and are fooled on a day-to-day basis.

Other artists at the exhibition include Nye Thompson, Ujoo and Limheeyoung and more. Please note, we have been to the exhibition twice and the “Black Hole Horizon’ piece has been closed both times.

There are other exhibitions in Manchester which use the theme of digitalism, including the Lightwaves exhibition mentioned earlier, and Digital Matters currently being shown at CFCCA. This exhibition is a real eye-opener as to how much the digital way affects our day-to-day life, and how humans are truly becoming digital. Being digital isn’t about what apps are on your phone or how smart your TV is anymore, it features in so much of our lives that it is almost inescapable. So it is no surprise the ‘digital’ now features in our art galleries too. Robots and computers are the art work, which are being used to show our relationship with, well, computers! Each piece in this exhibition uses the digital age to explore our relationship with the digital age. It’s like an ongoing loop that blurs our ‘real’ and ‘digital’ lives.

The exhibition is on till 25th February at The Lowry.

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