RMIT: Future U exhibition examines humans’ place in world of advanced tech

The exhibition connects artists and researchers as they explore potential implications of rapid tech developments, which challenge our beliefs and values.

Through a powerful blend of science and science fiction, Future U highlights how we are captivated by stories of transformation and fascinated by our very own humanity.

It comes as developments in artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology challenge deeply held beliefs and notions of what it is to be human.

Co-curator and RMIT alumnus Dr Evelyn Tsitas said the aspects that differentiate us are increasingly under threat as artificial intelligence reveal itself to be capable of surpassing human capability.

“Our unique capacity for language, rational thought, creative power and identity are under constant revision from the technology we create,” she said.

“Humanity finds itself at multiple inflection points whereby our technology has the ability to fundamentally interfere with our way of being, environment and society.

“Is all that will separate us from machines our emotions and that intangible, undefinable aspect of humanity – our souls?”

news_futureu1_1220pxInstallation image, Future U, RMIT Gallery. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
As our technological creations begin to replicate qualities that were once considered to be ‘uniquely’ our own, Future U considers how we change; redrawing shifting boundaries and updating antiquated definitions.

Co-curator Jonathan Duckworth, an Associate Professor in the School of Design, said he and Tsitas sought works that opened debate rather than offered answers.

“In curating this exhibition, we did not seek out artists with a shared vision of the future,” he said.

“We found ourselves drawn to diverse artists whose work grappled with key questions about human endeavour, transformation and relationships.”

Works from the 19 artists and collectives are divided into three key themes:

Future Possibilities: That rapid advances in artificial intelligence, machines, robotics and biotechnologies have disrupted the definition of what it means to be human.
Future Intimacies: The impact of technologies on our relations with our environments and with each other.
Future Bodies: The extent that humans can augment and manipulate their bodies with technologies until we are no longer human.
The dreams, speculations and possible nightmares offered by artists, designers and researchers provide a glimpse of a contradictory, messy future that is both unlimited and unruly.

But it is also a future which embraces the possibilities of a body and a world that extends beyond our current limitations.

RMIT Gallery closed but exhibition continues online
Although the physical gallery is closed until further notice due to COVID restrictions, select works can be seen in the exhibition catalogue.

Co-curators Tsitas and Duckworth, with artists Dr Pia Interlandi and Alexi Freeman discuss the exhibition in the above audio package.

Interlandi, an academic in the School of Fashion and Textiles, talks about designing garments for the grave and what might change when death happens on another planet, like Mars.

Fashion designer Alexi Freeman discusses his practice using biowaste to make textiles, a sustainable practice likely to be increasingly necessary in the future.