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Only Human

Presented by NEW INC and Nokia Bell Labs

 

Opens April 29, 2018
Gallery 1 & Theater

NEW INC, the New Museum’s cultural incubator, presents Only Human, an exhibition at Mana Contemporary, which showcases the work of the first cohort of NEW INC artists participating in the artist-in-residence program at Nokia Bell Labs. Three former NEW INC members, Sougwen Chung, Lisa Park, and Hammerstep (Jason Oremus and Garrett Coleman), collaborated with Nokia Bell Labs researchers to produce new artistic projects inspired or enabled by Bell Labs technologies. As the culmination of this residency program, the exhibition brings together three projects by the artists created over the last year during their residencies.

The three projects in Only Human are focused on themes of human-computer collaboration and intersubjectivity, the nature of interpersonal relationships in a digitally mediated world, surveillance and power dynamics in a technocratic society, and the inevitable compromises that define our symbiotic relationship with technology. Each work strives to experiment with new artistic forms while also offering a speculative take on our existing social structures and the potential implications of emerging technology.

Despite their strong focus on emerging and future technologies, at their core, each of the three projects is ultimately striving to uncover and highlight qualities that seem innately human—such as empathy, intuition, and unspoken forms of communication like gesture, touch, rhythm, and motion. The works consider what distinguishes human nature from the tools that we create, while also serving to underscore that even these tools are inherently a part of us, as they are also a product of our own imaginations. 


SOUGWEN CHUNG
Omnia per Omnia, 2018

Sougwen Chung uses drawing, installation, sculpture, film, painting, and performance to explore the difference between handmade and machine-made marks, a means of understanding the relationship between humans and computers.

Omnia per Omnia reimagines the tradition of landscape painting as a collaboration between an artist, a robotic swarm, and the dynamic flow of a city. The work explores the poetics of various modes of sensing: human and machine, organic and synthetic, and improvisational and computational.

Orchestrated as a collaborative drawing performance between Chung and a swarm of custom-designed drawing robots, the robots will continue to enact the gestures and choreography of the original performance piece throughout the duration of the exhibition, tracing their original marks ad infinitum. Alongside the drawing-robots are paintings created from previous drawing performances, concept designs for more organic robot bodies, as well as a short film exploring the composite agency of an artist and a robotic swarm as a speculation on new pluralities. The work asks: Are we at the onset of a new, collaborative imagination of radical new intersubjectivities? What does it mean to collaborate with the spaces we inhabit, the tools we build? Where does “I” end and “we” begin?
 

This work is made possible by the Nokia Bell Labs Motion Engine, which offers a new way to visually analyze complex natural and manmade systems. The Motion Engine acts as a visual mediator between Chung and the robotic swarm by breaking down the complexity of the city.

 

LISA PARK
Blooming, 2018

Lisa Park is a Korean-American performance artist who uses biometric sensors, such as those measuring heart rate and brain waves, to create intimate environments and experiences that excavate hidden emotional states like vulnerability, intimacy, and confrontation.

Blooming highlights the importance of presence and physical connection in our lives. The deeply personal work is inspired by Park’s experiences living abroad in the United States, feeling detached from family and friends back home in South Korea. While our digital, globalized world allows us to always stay connected, what is lost when our most meaningful relationships are mediated through screens? Drawing on research from developmental psychology on the importance of touch to human wellbeing, Park questions how a lack of physical contact and in-person interaction might contribute to feelings of loss, alienation, dissociation, and melancholy.

The installation—which takes the form of a life-size cherry blossom tree, a common symbol of social ties and the transience of life in East Asian cultures—responds to physical contact between two to four participants. When participants stand before the tree and hold hands or embrace, the tree will flourish in peak bloom; when they release, it will collapse into its pre-bloomed state.

Park’s work is augmented by advanced research at Nokia Bell Labs into sensor technology that enables the detection and determination of intimate contact between people.

 

HAMMERSTEP
INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment, 2018

In the near future, society on the Eastern seaboard has fallen apart. New York City’s utopian Sixth Borough and its cutting-edge research facility, Borough Labs, are searching for solutions to the worldwide energy and humanitarian crises. Chief Engineer Micah Grey has discovered the presence of an Indigo energy life force, demonstrated through the physical and extrasensory abilities of society’s most creative and innovative individuals. Heightened movement initiative is a core indicator of “Indigo abilities”—imperative to the development of the Sixth Borough society. For the first time ever, Micah is holding a public event to recruit “Motion Thinkers” to help fuel a revolutionary new “Indigo” experiment, and you have been invited to participate.

Hammerstep is a collective that uses choreography, technology, and nontraditional audience engagement to tell new stories through theater and dance. Their unique percussive style, which fuses elements of hip-hop, Irish dance, African stepping, and martial arts, acts as a coded language for the future, focusing on the symbolic potential of movement.

INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment is a prologue to a more ambitious immersive theater experience called INDIGO GREY, currently in development. This work-in-progress presentation will introduce key concepts and characters from that narrative, as well as some of its interactive narrative devices, such as a responsive projection environment, gesture-controlled drones, and interactive motion puzzles that audience members will solve to progress through the story.

When not activated by one of Hammerstep’s performances, their modular set functions as a monolithic projection-mapped sculpture. Mysterious and foreboding, the structure is at once reminiscent of a temple, a spaceship, a bunker, and a mausoleum, inviting visitors to devise their own narratives about the fictional society that built it and for what purpose it was intended.

Hammerstep is utilizing Nokia Bell Labs’s pioneering network-controlled drone research to enable precise tracking and control of drones with millisecond latency responsiveness.


Revisiting Experiments in Art and Technology
Only Human is the result of a partnership between New Museum’s NEW INC incubator and Nokia Bell Labs, which facilitates artist residencies and collaborations between artists and engineers. This work is carried out in the tradition of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), a nonprofit organization originally co-founded by Bell Labs engineers, Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhaumer, and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman in the 1960s with the aim of encouraging cross-disciplinary work between the arts and sciences. To pay homage to this legendary organization and its work, the exhibition features two galleries of archival material documenting the origins and activities of E.A.T. from 1960–2001. The materials include “Story of E.A.T.,” a firsthand account containing images and text compiled and arranged by Klüver himself, as well as original films of the historic 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering performances, including performances by Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Deborah, Alex Hay, and more.


Public Programs

Sunday, April 29
1–7PM
Exhibition Opening
(during Mana Contemporary Spring
Open House 2018)

1:30PM
Sougwen Chung Performance
Omnia per Omnia
(tickets not required)
Gallery 1

2PM
Hammerstep Performance
INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment
Mana Theater; 1st Floor
RSVP to reserve your spot

6PM
Hammerstep Performance
INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment
Mana Theater; 1st Floor
RSVP to reserve your spot

Saturday, May 12
10AM–6PM
Symposium, Experiments in Art & Technology—Then & Now

SATURDAYS, MAY 5, 12, 19
Scheduled Performances of
INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment
Mana Theater; 1st Floor

Please check here for performance times and to reserve your spot. Tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

ABOUT NEW INC
NEW INC was cofounded by Lisa Phillips and Karen Wong in 2014 and is the first museum-led cultural incubator dedicated to supporting innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship across art, design, and technology. NEW INC’s Director is Julia Kaganskiy.

ABOUT NOKIA BELL LABS
Nokia Bell Labs is the world renowned industrial research arm of Nokia. Over its ninety-year history, Bell Labs has invented many of the foundational technologies that underpin information and communications networks and all digital devices and systems. This research has resulted in eight Nobel Prizes, two Turing Awards, three Japan Prizes, a plethora of National Medals of Science and Engineering, as well as an Oscar, two Grammy awards and an Emmy award for technical innovation. For more information, visit www.bell-labs.com.

ABOUT NEW MUSEUM
The New Museum is the only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to contemporary art. Founded in 1977, the New Museum is a center for exhibitions, information, and documentation about living artists from around the world. From its beginnings as a one-room office on Hudson Street to the inauguration of its first freestanding building on the Bowery designed by SANAA in 2007, the New Museum continues to be a place of experimentation and a hub of new art and new ideas. For more information, visit newmuseum.org.

 
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LEARN MORE
Press Release

IMAGE
Sougwen Chung, Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 1 (Mimicry), 2015. Courtesy of the artist.