Princeton University School of Architecture - Princeton
06 / 11 / 2017 – 05 / 01 / 2018

Princeton University School of Architecture announces the opening of the exhibition Are we human? : The Design of the Species : 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years curated by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley. A galaxy of designers, architects, artists, theorists, filmmakers, historians, scientists, labs, centers, institutes, and NGOs respond to Are we human?, the polemical curatorial manifesto of Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley.

In an installation designed by Andres Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation, the entire School of Architecture building will be filled with a dense collage of overlapping provocations on the question Are we human? Art meets science meets reflection meets speculation in a new kind of conversation about design.

The exhibition thinks about the fact that the human is unique in its capacity to design but is also continuously redesigning itself in a never ending loop that flings it into the world in unexpected ways. The human is a question mark and design is simply the way of engaging with that question.

Every participant scrutinizes the human from a different angle. Unspoken by Diller Scofidio + Renfro explores Darwin’s observation that only humans blush. Forensic Architecture considers the question of whether orangutans should be granted human rights. Orkan Telhan offers his Microbial Design Studio, an inexpensive automated and networked countertop biofabrication machine to design, culture, and test genetically modified organisms.

Laura Kurgan changes architectural thinking to the scale of the neuron and leading brain scientists from the Seung Lab at Princeton University and the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University present the latest thinking about the brain as both the mechanism of design and a plastic architecture that is redesigned even by thoughts.

MOS Architects wrap space with an army of unemployed scale figures. And many more. This array is supplemented by installations on The Unstable Body, Are We Normal?, Homo cellular, and Design in 2 Seconds—prepared by the curatorial team and a joint team of Princeton and Columbia University students. The overall effect is a kaleidoscope of artistic, technical, philosophical, theoretical, and ethical reflection on the intimate relation between “design” and “human.”

The participants include: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Eyal Weizman and Forensic Architecture, Hito Steyerl, Marshmallow Laser Feast, MOS Architects, Armin Linke, Galina Balashova, Francois Dallegret, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Laura Kurgan, Orkan Telhan, Lu Yang, Tom Keenan and Sohrab Mohebbi,Lorenzo Pezzani,Common Accounts,Daniel Eisenberg, Juan Herreros, Sebastian Seung, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Lucia Allais, Joyce Hsiang and Bimal Mendis, Lydia Kallipoliti, Ali Kazma, Axel Kilian, Spyros Papapetros, and Universal Space Program.

This version of the ongoing Are we human? project presents a slice of the original 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial curated by Colomina and Wigley that was staged in five different venues across the city of Istanbul in 2016—as can be seen in the curators’ walking tour of the Biennial. The idea is to continue the urgent trans-disciplinary conversation launched there.

In association with the exhibition, Colomina and Wigley, in partnership with E-flux Architecture, are organizing a Superhumanity event at the Princeton University School of Architecture on the question of Cosmism, with Boris Groys giving the keynote on the evening of November 30 and a daylong symposium on December 1 featuring Robert Bird, Maria Chehonadskih, Nikolaus Hirsch, Marina Simakova, Anton Vidokle, and Arseny Zhilyayev.

Further work on the theme can be found in Colomina and Wigley’s book “Are We Human: Notes Towards an Archeology of Design” (Lars Muller, 2016) and the forthcoming volume “Superhumanity: Design of the Self” (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), that documents all the 50 contributions to the Superhumanity project done before, during and after the Biennial in collaboration with E-Flux Architecture.