News / Arts & Entertainment

Exhibit Explores Impact of Technology on Humanity

Exhibit Explores Impact of Technology on Humanityi
X
June 12, 2014 6:10 PM
What do Santa Claus, the Bride of Frankenstein, and drones have in common? Plenty, it turns out, as VOA reporter Julie Taboh discovered at a new exhibit at a major art museum in Baltimore, Maryland. The exhibition examines the impact technology has had on our lives as interpreted by artists, futurists and inventors.
In a room glowing brightly from hundreds of twinkling LED light bulbs, the sound of Christmas carols - sung in Hindi and Punjabi - fill the air, as a misshapen Santa Claus stands atop a flying saucer and a huge spaceship with a carousel on top hovers nearby.

This unusual holiday scene by artist Kenny Irwin Jr. -- a practicing Muslim -- is a bold statement about the commercialization of Christmas in which traditional holiday objects like reindeer and nutcrackers have been transformed from the familiar to the bizarre.

The unusual display is part of a new exhibit called "Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity!" at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, which examines the impact of technology on human life as told through the eyes of more than 40 artists, futurists and inventors.  
 
  • "Have Yourself a Happy Little Robotmas" by Kenny Irwin Jr. at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • Kenny Irwin Jr.'s "Have Yourself a Happy Little Robotmas" installation at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • Dean Millien's "Gorilla" at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • "Piano Family" by Allen Christian at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • "The Final Battle" by Fred J. Carter at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • "Gaia" by Alex Grey at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • "The Bride of Frankenstein" by Adam Kurtzman at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • Fixed Ajax #2 by Allen Christian at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • A wall of circuit boards at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)
  • O.L. Samuel's "Godzilla" at the "Human, Soul and Machine: The Coming Singularity" exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Julie Taboh/VOA)

Museum founder and director Rebecca Hoffberger is also the curator of the exhibit. Every year she picks a serious theme for a major exhibit to get people thinking. This year, it's about the blessing and the dangers of technology.

"Because,” she said, “technology is becoming increasingly powerful globally at rates never before witnessed.”

Technology's impact

The exhibit begins with an exploration of what Hoffberger believes is the birth of technology: the discovery of fire.

“Fire begins our capacity to manipulate our environment -- the earth -- that was a gift to all of us,” she said. 

That gift was a two-edged sword, she added. While it offered wonderful benefits, like heat and light, "what fire unleashed is really the whole chemical world; the ability to smelt metals and make swords, guns, tanks, and in the blink of an eye, the atomic bomb.” 

Warfare

In light of that consideration, a whole section of the exhibit is devoted to warfare, from a single, powerful image of the atomic bomb, to a series of drawings by artist Rigo 23 that explore the ethics of drone usage.

There’s even a two-meter-tall "Godzilla," inspired by the original mythical figure that was first created in response to the devastating effects of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Numerous images and signs in strategic areas of the museum remind visitors of the cost of war. 

Mother earth

Other images in the exhibition explore the destruction of the environment, as captured in a painting called "Gaia" by artist Alex Grey.

"On one-half of the tree of life is earth, idyllic in harmony with human kind; we’re vegetarians, we’re not in any way harming nature.  But on the other, it’s what we’ve done to manipulate nature,” Hoffberger said.

And the presence of a life-size gorilla covered with aluminum sends a powerful message about the threatened existence of this great ape species and the plundering of ancient forests for the popular metal.

“Aluminum, because it was so difficult to refine for a period of humanity’s time, was much more valuable than gold,” said Hoffberger. “But at the same time, the moment they found a way to refine it, aluminum became the stuff we wrap around a hot dog and throw away in the trash.”  

Human Soul

Another work of art by Alex Grey is his “Sacred Mirrors” series of paintings, which artfully explores the connection between body and soul.

Adam Kurtzman’s full-size “The Bride of Frankenstein” represents mankind’s historic fascination with control over life and death.

Sculptor Allen Christian, who has two works in the exhibit, is nostalgic for the days when handmade tools and objects were valued.  His robot, “Ajax,” is made from items like railroad spikes that once held importance but have since been discarded.

“These things are imbued with energy from the people that made them, designed them, used them,” he said. “It’s about trying to put them back together to give it a different life.”

His “Piano Family” -- made out of spare piano parts -- represents a bygone era when things now made by machine were crafted by hand.

“Having a piano where the family would be around it,” he said, “was about being together and this was a forum where we bonded,” he said. “There was something very powerful about music that I think was lost when recordings came out when you didn’t have to participate.”
 
Good technology

There are displays in the exhibition representing the positive side of technology; a video of one of Henry Ford’s cars for example, and a wooden replica of the Wright brothers’ airplane. But the loss of our humanity permeates the show.

One of the most powerful is Fred Carter's series of giant wooden carvings. One of them, titled “The Final Battle,” depicts on one side the face of an anguished human and on the other, his transformation into a robot. 

The piece is made out of a single piece of wood, and warns of the consequences of the industrial manipulation of nature.

“Fred was so worried that humanity was going to lose its humanity,” said Hoffberger.  “And he shows here on the robot side, the bits of copper wire coming out of us that we’re no longer quite human.”

Purpose

“With every exhibition, I try to prepare something absolutely delicious for a three-year-old to eat in terms of eye candy and flashing lights,” said Hoffberger, but she also wanted something “that a Nobel Prize winner can love and learn from.” 

On this day a group of visiting students from a nearby school seemed transfixed by the blend of art, science, humor and imagination.

Victoria Greenia, 12, said she felt the exhibition “shows how technology has helped us and yet has destroyed our environment in a way.” 

Angus Gatlin, 11, was mesmerized by Grey’s "Gaia."

“I liked this one in specific because I thought it was really powerful…if you notice all the animals are dying…I think the whole message is, ‘Watch what you’re doing,’” he said. 

While many of the displays in the exhibition are playful, the serious question at the heart of it all, is will we use our ever-evolving technology for positive or negative purposes?

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: 1worldnow from: Earth
June 17, 2014 8:17 AM
A moment in history, not so far in the past: Just at the hint that Family Guy was going to show an image of the Prophet Muhammed, there were demonstrations and riots, and it hadn't even been shown! But this is just fabulous that a Muslim wishes to insult Christmas, gleefully. Really? Kenny had to choose Christmas to make this kind of point, really? OK fellow Christians, time to riot, loot, maim, and just have a darn good time doing it! Let's flip over some cars, burn our buildings, and violently attack anyone we think may not be Christian! Yahoo! Oh wait, we (Christians) seem to exhibit much more decency and respect for others opinions. My bad. Like Laura Ingram said about the Dixie Chicks in England bashing Bush, "Shut up and sing!" Artists create art, why can't you just do that?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.