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We as humans are frail and vulnerable, especially our bodies, in which everyday diseases and accidents take away parts of us: whether it is a hand, a leg, or even a heart. So what if I told you that our future relies on humanity transforming into cyborgs? The definition of cyborgs today is a rare word to be known or referred to, but in the future, cyborgs will be our new definition of humanity. This theme first came to my mind when I first watched several movies, like Mr. Nobody, I, Robot and a few Black Mirror episodes, that inspired the idea for me to create my own prediction of how we, as humans, will look like, and how our world will evolve. Cyborgs are fictional or hypothetical people whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal, human measures by mechanical elements built into the body. As an 18-year-old girl living in the 21st century, it is fair to say that our world is not like 20 or 50 years ago. Every day, science and technology experiences life-changing breakthroughs, whether it is the development of prosthetic hands that sense touch, thought-controlled bionic legs and noses that smell diseases, which will be definite by around 2050. That is only 32 years away. When I'm 50, the world I will be living in as an adult will be excessively different from the one that I had lived in as a teenager. Therefore, for this theme I decided to manipulate my own models on Photoshop and create my own visual prediction on human cyborgs, changing their skin color, their hair color and maneuvering our current idea of a normal physical appearance, to a more futuristic evolvement.
Human Eye Evolution
To start off this concept, I looked into Michael Najjar, that also inspired my final piece. Najjar is certainly one of the rare and unique artists of this century that is way ahead of his time and aims to bring awareness to a potential technical image of humanity. He depicts and transforms the faces and eyes of the human body, making them look more robotic and plastic. He was born in 1966 in London, UK, and attended the Academy of Arts in Berlin from 1988 to 1993. In his "Nexus Project of 1999–2000," he approaches art with an inter-disciplinary mindset, transmuting the fields of science and art into utopias of visions of the future social structures of technology. In this way, he shows humanity in a beautiful and smart way adding pure white eye lenses in the eyes of his models (before photographing them) to make them appear as simple and humane as possible, making the futuristic lenses stand out to the viewer. To add, his experimenting is very effective as he replaces the human eye with robotic-like lenses and adjusts their skin color by making the hue lighter with less saturation. Thus, he makes them look more robotic and less human by appearing less exposed to the sun, removing their humane symbol of warmth, and evolving his prediction of humanity in his own unique way. Najjar has affected many futuristic artists’ perspective on the future with his simple, yet powerful work and adds a very playful touch with the information he presents along with his models. Therefore, he has helped me to develop my work by experimenting with the eye color and the hue of the skin of my models, using white lenses as a refining eye color that stands out, and creates the idea of this utopian world—my view of the future. In that world, technology will not allow any imperfections to exist. For instance, our eye color will be the ideal, perfect color that every human will be able to have through the lenses, and not only that but the lenses themselves will contain data and information that will give us access to every day through our eyes as soon as we put them on. In this way, Najjar has refined my idea of the future in a more accurate, detailed way through the ideal beauty that will exist thanks to technology, in the future.
Marc Khachfe is a London-based artist who fuses science, space, and art in his series of large-scale maps composed of multiple layers of photographs and data. I was instantly fascinated by his work and the nighttime images that he captured, which imposed the idea that in the future, Earth will be much brighter, regarding the vast amount of skyscrapers and bright lights that will brighten up the whole sky, even at night. Technically, our world will become an enormous world-wide "Times Square," and god knows how much that will damage us! This idea inspired me to experiment and create my own predicted maps brightened up with skyscrapers, merging photographs and data to gradually bring life to this possible future. Marc does not forget to emphasize the darker regions of a city or country, as in the future it does not mean that there will not be any poverty or bad, unhealthy conditions. His play of dark and light shadows illustrates this idea and helps evaluate the fact that poverty still has a long way to go, and Khachfe explains that perhaps there is no hope for the disappearance of poverty anytime soon. He successfully creates a lively mood with the play of light and negative space by bringing a balance between dark and light. At the same time, many reviews on Khachfe’s work have commented that his high-quality images can “very easily be mistaken as photographs of world cities, taken at night by astronauts from the International Space Station.” Therefore, Marc Khachfe is the artist that helped me perceive a new perspective of my theme of what would happen to our world’s maps in the future.
Prosthetics, I believe, will be a big part of our future’s maturity, as they will be added on cyborgs to make them look less humane and more robotic and technological. Francesco Sambo’s "Eternal" and "del Metallo" projects animate this idea. Sambo is a multidisciplinary artist based in Venice, Italy who focuses on digital art, video, and photography. These digitally manipulated pictures of swapped human faces and the denoting of the head are rather interesting and surreal images as they link my theme to the idea of technological prosthetics on the face and body. The way he plays with light and dark lighting, which also links to Marc Khachfe, creates a mysterious and peculiar atmosphere around the models. Thus with Sambo’s reason of prosthetics, I went ahead and experimented with a few nails and screws that I found and glued them peculiarly according to my models’ pose. In this way I elaborate the technical and technological idea of humanity evolving with prosthetics, using string and screwdrivers to objectifying my models and evaluating the idea of dehumanized cyborgs.
Then, I continued experimenting and working on prosthetics, which the LucyandBart collaboration helped me do. Artists Lucy McRae and Bart Hess generate ambiguous images, depicting skin as an interface between our self and the world. LucyandBart imagines physically transformed bodies and faces with sometimes shocking realism. They use various materials and add them to the face, exploding volumes and remodeling the human silhouette very quickly to expose all creative energy. LucyandBart helped me discover the idea of adding material to the human body, thus experimenting on the prosthetic way to perfect human beings, just like how robots and cyborgs will be. This made me think of the dragging out and 3D effect that I experimented on, on my personal photos to create a peculiar mankind, different to humans today.
New media artist Marco Bagni's project "Getting Lost," which is an "infographic essay on the meaning of life," exhibits a certain image that caught my eye, illustrating the exact futuristic lenses I want to come out of my models’ eyes. In this way, I continued developing this idea on different personal photos, testing the lighting and glow of the bionic eye, thus creating the first part of my own predicted cyborg. With these artists, the idea of inserting and creating my own bionic eye and futuristic lenses matured my theme with the concept, first presented by Michael Najjar, inspiring me to create my own lens. This lens will have data and information programmed into it, that will be accessed by us once put in our eyes. This technological concept is extremely interesting as it brings to life the future that I have imagined.
Creating My Own Future
As I developed, I matured and refined my theme by using the dragging out effect on certain parts of the face to create a distorted, strange effect rather than only distorting parts of the body. With the dragged out effect I intend to show the distorted effect that will represent humanity in the future—not only physically distorted but also lost and broken inside. By selecting and dragging out certain parts of the face on Photoshop, I elaborated this concept of the prosthetics, along with the development of the cyborg idea through the hidden robotic parts behind the dragged out, broken pieces of the face and body. However, my work is not only concerned with the physical transformation of humanity but also our emotional and psychological deterioration. Additionally, I chose the colors ultramarine and cyan as the main colors to present on my final pieces, to diminish the warm color and thus the warmth that characterizes humans today. I replaced this warmth with the coldness and rigidness, represented through the use of a cooler color palette, indicating that the future human will lose its humanity due to prosthetics and the replacement of body parts.
In conclusion, I combined the idea of the bionic eye lens, the distorted effect, prosthetics, and the maps, in order to bring to life my initial idea that I had of the future. For my final pieces, I added a technological and futuristic background to transfer the models to a different era. I further developed them by smoothing out their faces, altering their skin hue and adding space backgrounds on the windows. Then I added the bionic eye, making them look peculiarly perfect, and additionally, mutilated the skin to make the robotic parts stand out on the body. Finally, I added the map on the body with an adjusted level of opacity to blend everything and to connect Khachfe’s use of maps and light to show my prophecy of the future. By the end, my concept of the future was complete and showed by far a scary, yet beautiful, idea of what our future in 50 years may be. My prediction may be far-fetched, but at the same time if you look back at the 90s where iPhones and laptops weren’t a part of the population’s everyday life, you can understand how quickly technology is evolving and how easily one day we will use this technology on us to fix our flaws and become what we think will be “perfect."