A scent portrait of the end of the world, a fictional cooking programme by two trans-femme presenters on how to prepare your own hormones, a bar that has been trained to grant access to hipsters only, and an unnerving encounter with a mechanical head of human hair. The Lowry’s latest exhibition, humansbeingdigital, looks set to be a weird and wonderful affair.
The underlying concept stems from an investigation into the relationship between humans, machines and digital technology (both now and in the future), asking what new perspectives on life and emotion this area of intersection can reveal. The exhibition will contain a selection of works, most of which have never been seen in the UK before, by nine leading international artists.
Hipster Bar, which scans visitors’ faces, only granting entry to those deemed ‘hipster enough’, is based on an algorithm that artist Max Dovey has trained using images sourced from Instagram, to mimic the way that social media can be a source of exclusion, isolation and rejection, as much as community and belonging. Felix Luque Sanchez presents an immersive installation based on a sci-fi story that raises “issues about the nature of intelligence and the fate of intelligent creatures.” And artist, researcher and lecturer, Libby Heaney, deconstructs concepts of love and relationships between people using Tinder.
Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead comment on an age in which “both consumerism and politics feed on fear, mysticism and fallacies” in their piece Apocalypse; a chemical portrait of the end of the world based on the description within The Book of Revelation, presented in the form of a luxury perfume – containing notes of burnt flesh, incense and blood. While husband-and-wife artist-duo, U_Joo+LimheeYoung, probe the uncomfortable relationship humans have with their appearance in their piece Machine with hair caught in it; a kinetic sculpture of moving cogs that draws locks of real human hair through its head-like mechanism.
Other works include a major installation by German artist, Thom Kubli, using gramophone horns to blow giant ‘bubbles of sound’ through the gallery, recreating the noise of the ships that rang out across Manchester and Salford until the closure of the Manchester Docks in 1982. Pascal Haudressy addresses the implications of a world in which biological organisms and virtual life increasingly coexist and communicate. Nye Thompson uses CCTV footage to ask questions about technology and privacy. And Mary Maggic, Mango Chijo Tree and The Jayder’s Housewives Making Drugs parodies the staple cooking television programme as a vehicle to challenge and subvert patriarchal society, and speculate on a world with greater body sovereignty for all.
While digital technology has long been a source of inspiration for artists around the world, humansbeingdigital looks set to offer something quite different; placing an emphasis on what these machines, and our growing dependence upon them, can tell us about ourselves. This is an exhibition designed to provoke a deeply emotional response among its audience, encouraging us to question the given as well as conquering the complex. Not a bad message to hold onto in an age of unprecedented technological discovery.