Since the start of the industrial revolution, the rapid development of technology has repeatedly raised questions about the future of human evolution. These questions are frequently addressed in pop-culture, in Blade Runner and Terminator, which explore the implications of merging of technology and biology. Contemporary artist, Harry Klein, shifts this discussion to the fine arts.
Klein strives to create an image of the future from a human perspective. His focus differs from dystopian norms, as he avoids narratives of human extinction and destruction. Instead, he focuses on themes of identity in the age of abundant technology. Using a range of mediums, including photo-media and sculpture, Harry seeks to explain what this post-human world may look like, and how it will affect our ties to biology.
“I’m looking at the way we improve ourselves, and the way we [destroy] ourselves – looking at the potential fault in our genes”
Drawing inspiration from the gothic canon, through authors such as Mary Shelley and Philip Dick, Klein’s latest work Progeny merges elements of sculpture and performance to create a robotic being that Klein describes as a “modern cyberpunk sculpture”, an embodiment of his post-human alter ego. His sculpture consists of objects that have personal significance to him, such as a nebuliser mask he wore at night that helped him breath when he suffered from asthma as a child. The accumulation of these personal objects presents how he has engaged with technology within his own life. Though external to his body, they play an important part in understanding his identity. For the audience, Klein’s act of distilling his ‘technological identity’ prompts us to reflect on our own engagement with technology, and interdependence with machines – just like Klein was dependant on his nebuliser mask for air.
Following the completion of the sculpture, Klein intends to converse with it: his dialogue consists of two chapters – the first from the voice of the maker (himself), and the second from the voice of the “creation” (his sculpture). By referencing his sculpture as a “creation”, he implies that while technology is playing an ever-increasing role in our daily lives, we are still the overseers of its development and capacity.
Klein’s theme of post-humanism is also present in Taste, which merges elements of two disciplines – scanography and textile. His main objective was to create a grotesque, post-human self-portrait, which would then be turned into a landscape. To create the work, Klein pressed his face and tongue up against a scanner, moving his tongue at staggered intervals to manipulate its shape. The resulting effect is a prolonging of his tongue into an inhuman form. Klein then developed the scan into a large rug, which he displayed on the floor. The act of creating a rug holds great significance for him, as he manifests objects from his family home, which includes a large collection of expensive rugs. Due to the high resolution scan, we are able to clearly see all his blemishes. Technology, here, has the capacity to showcase our flaws, which occupying a superposed capacity has the potential to both help us and to exploit us.
This amalgamation of mediums “turns a portrait into a landscape, entering into a new aesthetic realm of high and low art”. Not only is Klein pushing the boundaries of humanism, but is pushing the boundaries of contemporary art itself.
Within Klein’s work, a hypothesis for the future of human identity can be found. As we move more towards the virtual realm, it is inevitable that our identities will be stored, manipulated, and exposed through technological means. Optimistically however, this may allow us to positively re-define ourselves.