Ural Industrial Biennial
CURATOR: Xiaoyu Weng
Anticipating the arrival of Homo Deus, the super human, the agenda of transhumanist eternity calls for technological acceleration to overcome death. This aim towards the Singularity—the idea that humans will be enhanced, overtaken, and replaced by artificial or biological intelligence—is deeply paradoxical: while it points to the possibility of overcoming death with the help of machines and bioengineering, it also signals a crisis of “humanity,” since what is “human” increasingly reveals its “backwardness” in relation to technological development. Taking this paradox as point of departure, For A Multitude of Futures examines our increasingly hegemonized relationship with modern technology.
In order to open up the possibilities for different futures, this exhibition proposes a radical re-imagination of life and death, and of our materialist pursuit of immortality. It challenges transhumanist immortality’s universal claim, which synchronizes different temporalities into a singular future and equates death to total annihilation and denies its emotional, memorial, intellectual, and cultural resonances. The confinement of the concept of technology to machines, screens, tablets, and artificial intelligence—external tools for humans to overcome nature, time, and death—represses its complex meanings and traditions in different, especially non-Western cultures, from ways of organizing knowledge based on astronomical events and natural phenomena, to the crafting of objects that are both functional and spiritual, to the ritual and burial practices to celebrate death. Echoing philosopher Yuk Hui’s proposal to employ the conceptual tool of cosmotechnics, which he defines as “the unification between the cosmic order and the moral order through technical activities,” For A Multitude of Futures engages these technological modes of thinking as agencies for humans to communicate with, but not to dominate, the cosmos.
Across the exhibition, a series of interwoven and intersecting protagonists and storylines, in their iterative and recursive choreography, creates a constellation of relationships, parameters, and experiences: the Fire; Violence and the Mushroom Clouds; the Butterfly and the Museum; Time; the Undead; Labor and Boredom; the Mirror and the Clear Mirror; the Jellyfish; Memory and Anamnesis; Forgotten Craftsmanship and Knowledge; the Metamorphosing Lives. Together, they provoke, poeticize, and invite us to overcome the limits of immortality into a plurality of futures.