The Dada movement of the early 20th century influenced a new aesthetic in the art world. This aesthetic incorporated various physical media (poetry, photography, sculpture, painting, collage, etc.) to create works of “non-art” that sought to confront, criticize, and disrupt traditional perceptions of everyday objects. In doing so, Dadaists not only stretched notions of art, but also produced and transformed artists’ sense of the self. This boundary-breaking nature of the Dadaist movement gradually paved the way towards the exploration of new forms of hybrid identity, which is still embraced in today’s areas of contemporary art and bioart. For instance, within bioart the advancement of cyborgs and biotechnology certainly embody the notion of hybrid identity.
In regards to the images of X-ray art as discussed by Professor Cartwright in week three’s lecture concerning the body and ecology, a project named Psymbiote: Exploring the Cyborg Body encompasses concepts similar to that of X-ray art. Pioneered by artist Isa Gordon, Psymbiote involves an exploration of creative cybernetics in the form of an experimental performance where Gordon herself dons a costume of electronic apparatuses. In an online summary of her performance, she explains that her project is meant to appear in public settings in order to stimulate dialogue about the future of technological extensions to the human body. By encouraging such discourse Gordon presents a new way of understanding the human form, which is analogous to the shift in body perception caused by earlier adaptations of X-ray art. Artists like Man Ray and his “rayographs”, for example, used their x-ray works to disrupt common notions surrounding mundane objects (similar to the objectives of Dadaists). Ray’s rayographs that utilized light exposure and photosensitized paper to create “photographs” revealed a new way of seeing. Although Gordon’s project implements mediums other than photography, she too creates a new way of seeing by prompting her audience to consider the cyborg as a networked human being.
Although innovative, Gordon’s project raises the many issues and critical debates concerning the integration of humans and electronic technology. On the positive end, researchers and proponents of the cyborg phenomenon argue that a re-engineering of the human species offers the opportunity to transcend limitations of intellect, strength, and longevity. They also claim that it may put society in a better position to attain the human race’s greatest utopian dreams such as peaceful coexistence and environmental sustainability. More realistic advocates believe that human biotechnology will actually become a necessity as levels of radiation and chemical pollution continue to increase. On the negative end, critics anticipate numerous adverse social consequences that may arise from these technologies. For instance, opponents state that a divide could potentially form between the small percentage of people who possess the financial resources to purchase the electronic devices/services and the large percentage of people who do not have the monetary means. This divide could then result in the undesirable conception of a master race.
Among all of the positive and negative effects surrounding cyborgs and biotechnology, is there a common ground that can be reached?