Growing Up Human

Vernissage BYOA, Bring Your Own Art, January 1, 2015. Photo: Annette Hegel

Vernissage BYOA, Bring Your Own Art, January 1, 2015. Photo: Annette Hegel

Growing Up Human is the theme of a series of exhibitions and events in the RIA Artist Project Room during the year of 2015 and 2016, through which we will examine what it means to be human in a post-humanist era.                                              

A Facebook page, Growing up Human, has been created to post articles, images and other web-content related to the topic.

As the world feels the shape-shifting effects of scientific and technological advancements with increasing intensity, a profound change in thinking about the human condition is taking hold. Humans have altered the earth’s life-systems to such an extent that earth scientists have suggested that the Holocene era has ended; we now live in the Anthropocene, an era in which the global human habitat is re-shaping the world.

It is deeply ironic that at a time when Homo Sapiens is more powerful than ever, the species, entangled as it is with the endangered life-world,  is also at its most vulnerable point.  While our exploitative powers are ever increasing, knowledge of our total dependency on the Earth can no longer be suppressed.  We have seen our smallness through pictures of Earth taken from outer space, and have become aware of the vastness of a universe that for some ninety percent remains dark matter to us. Down on earth, such ongoing studies of microbes, genomes and epi-genomes show the incredible interconnectedness of humans, animals and things. Beliefs in our species’ superiority and in the rationality and autonomy of the human subject, which were anchored in European, human-centred thinking from Classical Antiquity to the Renaissance and Modernity, have been shaken deeply.

The post-humanist era that we feel ourselves living in, is marked by theories of the human condition that are opposing but related in their post-humanism: Trans-humanists see a bright future in science, through which, they believe, human life can be surpassed, improved and extended by technological marvels such as stem cell transplants and electronic devices replacing body parts. Anti-humanists do not privilege humans as a singular, independent species, but consider their needs and wants only in relation to the life-world.  The place of the human in the world has shifted away from the centre. Homo Sapiens is considered one species among countless others.

What does it mean to be born and raised human in a post-human age?  Such a question may seem too large to be explored in the small context that the RIA Project Room provides, a tiny exhibition space in a private home, serving a small group of artists in a small city.  Yet, in a new understanding of the scheme of things, small, smaller, smallest bring the world into being.

-Petra Halkes.







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