Taking NTU CCA Singapore’s overarching research topic Climates. Habitats. Environments. as point of departure, the exhibition The Posthuman City considers the possibilities of a caring and respectful co-existence between species and a conscious sharing of resources.
Through imaginative propositions at the intersection of art, design, and architecture, the selected artists engage questions such as what is means to be human and address issues of sustainability, water scarcity, invisible communities, nature as a form of culture, and suggest the implementation of lived indigenous knowledges. The featured works range from installations to time-based media, examining the urban fabric in its condition as a habitat for a diversity of life forms.
Currently, more than half of the world’s human population lives in urban areas. Urban growth poses challenges to the various city dwellers, and creates material demands that cause lasting damage to the wider environment. The climate crisis is already announcing threatening scenarios particularly for coastal regions and megacities located at coastlines. Global urbanisation and the exploitation of resources happen on the expense of human and other species alike. The Posthuman City features artists who propose a shift in perspective.
Stressing the vital importance of clean water and the challenges of its scarcity around the world, Lucy + Jorge Orta have developed a long-term project on water collection, purification, and distribution. OrtaWater visualises low-cost water purification devices enabling filthy water to be pumped and filtered directly from local sources.
Similarly combating water pollution, Irene Agrivina’s Soya C(o)u(l)ture shows us how to transform wastewater from tofu and tempeh production into usable biomaterials, such as fuel, fertiliser, and leather-like fabrics. Indigenous peoples of various territories around the world, with deep historical and cultural ties to their land, have preserved sustainable ways of living that respect the limits of the planet’s resources.
Calling for exchanges of knowledge between indigenous communities and contemporary scientists and urban theorists, Marjetica Potrč’s Earth Drawings refer to the significance of indigenous knowledge and cosmogonies. Planetary co-existence between species acknowledges the presence and agency of diverse forms of intelligence. Nicholas Mangan is inspired by termites and their capacity to build sophisticated and dynamic architectures that provide a model for decentralised social and economic organisation.
On the other hand, Animali Domestici study the urbanity of Bangkok from the perspective of a python. Mapping the city through a snake’s experience of it, the resulting tapestry puts these animals at the centre, displacing the human from its exceptionalism.
The exploitative relationship between humans and other living creatures, including the domestication of animals, is also examined in Pierre Huyghe’s Untitled (Human Mask), where the artist films a monkey, Fuku-chan, who in real life works as a “waitress” in a restaurant. After first images of a devastated landscape, we follow the monkey around the dark and empty restaurant and house, using a wig and a dress, as well as a mask created by Huyghe.
Combining ill human bodies with flora and fauna, Ines Doujak’s series of collages Ghostpopulations transform drawings from 19th-century medical textbooks into stunning assemblages. While giving visibility to marginalised, abused, and uprooted populations, the dystopian images also remind us of the threat of pandemic illnesses due to climate change.
Death, from a post-humanist perspective, is not only inevitable and part of life, but it is also an event that is already in our past. Shifting the narratives around death, Jae Rhim Lee developed a burial suit as an environmentally-conscious alternative to conventional funerary processes. Highlighting the importance of decompiculture (the cultivation of waste-decomposing organisms), the Infinity Burial Suit also suggests a strong link between human resistance to mortality and climate change denial.
A parable on economic crashes, financial trading, mixed martial arts, and general contemporary culture, Hito Steyerl screen installation Liquidity Inc. using water and liquidity as tropes. Opening with Bruce Lee’s “be water, my friend”, the work comments on the circulation of digital images, big data, information, financial assets, labour, and weather systems. The intricate mesh of late capitalism structures needs to be hijacked in order to allow space for new ecological and sustainable policies that value people and life over profit.
The Posthuman City, through artistic propositions, intends to open a discussion about the imbalanced relationship of an anthropocentric thinking with the living environment. Curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, NTU, and Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Laura Miotto, Associate Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, NTU.
The accompanying public programmes include seminars addressing techno-optimism and eco-hacktivism on November 23, 2019, and biodiver-city and urban futurism on January 18, 2020, deepening the discussion around posthumanism and the urban condition.
A leading international art institution, NTU CCA Singapore is a platform, host, and partner creating and driven by dynamic thinking in its three-fold constellation: Exhibitions; Residencies Programme; Research and Academic Education. A national research centre for contemporary art of Nanyang Technological University, the Centre focuses on Spaces of the Curatorial.
It brings forth innovative and experimental forms of emergent artistic and curatorial practices that intersect the present and histories of contemporary art embedded in social-political spheres with other fields of knowledge.