Image: Rebekah Ubuntu courtesy of Angela Dennis Photography
Culture& is proud to have announces ‘Cyborgs’, our Friday Late Spectacular curated in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection.
Attendees joined us for an evening of irreverent performance, conversation and cocktails where we rethought the boundaries we perceive between human and non-human, or between races, genders or classes.
Attendees heard from artists, designers and engineers who are challenging assumptions about how we classify things as animal, human or machine, and asking whose voices we listen to when designing the future.
Talks were British Sign Language-interpreted.
Date: Friday 15th March 2019
Venue: Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, Nw1 2BE.
Tickets available here: https://wellcomecollection.org/events/XGFi9BAAAAWsm24n
Discussion: ‘Return of the Cyborg’
Attendees heard from Joanna Zylinska about why the cyborg has returned at a time when there’s a boom in AI, research into immortality and an unfolding ecological crisis. The talk included a screening of Zylinska’s short photo-film ‘Exit Man’, which explores the problem of human extinction and proposes ‘a feminist counter-apocalypse’ as an alternative cyborg scenario.
Discussion: ‘Cyborg Reading Groups’
Attendees joint a reading group to discover and discuss writing by Octavia Butler, Donna Haraway and Samuel R Delany and others.
Workshop: ‘Flesh and Machine’
Attendees met designers and engineers from UCL who create devices to extend our bodies’ capabilities. Attendees tried out a third thumb designed by Dani Clode, and learnt about how new limbs could affect our brains and saw prototypes of future technologies in surgery.
VR and Discussion: ‘NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism’
In a VR experience by Hyphen-Labs attendees visited a neurocosmetology lab where black women were pioneering techniques of brain optimization and cognitive enhancement. Attendees heard from the creators, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Romy Gad el Rab and Ece Tankal as they spoke about their work in speculative product design, emerging technologies, cognitive research and transhumanism.
Refreshments: ‘Cyborgian Cocktails’
Attendees enjoyed a range of cocktails specially created by mixologist Mairi Nolan. The drinks, named ‘Stars at Night’, ‘Human and Machine’ and ‘Asclepius’ referenced Cyborgian themes of space travel, the body and machine and the Greek god of medicine.
Workshop: ‘In the Kingdom of Impossible Life’
Attendees took part in a participatory workshop run by Zia Álmos Joshua X and explored classification and how it relates to the cyborg. Activities focussed on the legacy of Carl Linnaeus (who created the system of naming organisms that we still use today), modern ideas about symbiosis and interspecies relationships, and on the political and ethical power of technology.
Short Film Programme: ‘Cinematically Posthuman’
From pre-robotic automata as imagined by the European modernist avant garde to the dawn of the computer age and the advent of AfroFuturism, moving image artists explored the potential of the body in relation to technologies of the eras in which they were working.
Performance: ‘Long Straight Pubic Hair’
A newly commissioned and irreverent performance by artist Mamoru Iriguchi about a humble enhancement to his body that would change his life forever.
Performance: ‘Are You There?’
Attendees joined artist Rebekah Ubuntu to experience an Afrofuturist sound, video and performance work exploring un-belonging, questing and intersectional utopianism through the speculative gaze of an artificially intelligent cyborg.
Performance: ‘A Shoal of Lovers Leads Me Home’
Attendees listened to, breathe, taste and incited alternative Black queer liberations with speculative writer, artist and pleasure activist Ama Josephine Budge. Attendees explored possible climate-changed futures via her speculative fabulation ‘A Shoal of Lovers Leads Me Home’.
Screening: ‘The Last Angel of History’
Attendees watched a screening of ‘The Last Angel of History’, a film by Black Audio Film Collective. The film follows the journey of a data thief and uses Afrofuturism as a metaphor for cultural displacement, presenting a new way to understand the relationship between Black identity and the body. The film was introduced by Errol Francis.
Performance: ‘Disco Cosmonaut’
Le Gateau Chocolat provided a dramatic finale to the evening by singing two numbers that speak to his own struggles with identity as well as those of LGBTQIAP+ people everywhere: Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I am what I am’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’.