New Romance: Art and the Posthuman

Grace Rose –


‘Alone with the Gods’ (2016), an instillation work by Peter Hennessy and Patricia Piccinini featured in the Museum of Contemporary Arts exhibition ‘New Romance’, was a work which immediately grasped by attention. The combination of a created post apocalyptic setting, as well as the discomfort while facing these fleshy dehumanized beings brought a sense of curiosity while walking around the work. The weathered furniture featured in the work is creatively juxtaposed by contemporary lamps which are reflected by shattered mirrors placed on the walls. Both artists create an immersive experience for the viewer as the audience placed into a narrative of a isolationist cult. A video is played in the center of the work which describes the cults demise, providing a detailed context for the work.

Scattered throughout the instillation, both artists have created these somewhat human figures. The initial response to these skin covered, hairy beings is to step closer and examine the emergence detail which has been out into these sculptures. Both both artists have creatively made these exceedingly realistic beings which have human features such as wrinkles and hair, yet have these horrific fleshy growths.

I thoroughly enjoyed the enveloping experience both artists were able to create. The interesting narrative behind the work assisted the instillation in creating a realistic setting which the viewer was able to be totally immersed in.

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New Romance: Art and the Post-Human

Love or My Father? 2011 and Lady Gaga’s Taedong River North Korea — US Friendship Concert 2011 by Sanghyun Lee

At the Contemporary Museum of Art, two pieces that particularly struck my interest were Sanghyun Lee’s “Love or My Father?” (2011) and “Lady Gaga’s Taedong River North Korea — US Friendship concert” (2011). Both pieces are digital C prints pictured on historically recognized Korean landscape paintings. The works address what it means to be human today and what that may suggest about our future. One of the topics which is a theme within post-human art work is body distortion. Today, Korea is far leading in the number of plastic surgeries in the world. Apparently, it is extremely popular for women to get surgeries to look more Western, or even look like anime characters. Both works include cut out figures with barbie-like or anime features to emphasize humanity’s infatuation with body distortion. There are also sci-fi details, like aliens, which contributes to this unrealistic lifestyle that humanity seeks. More so on the corruption basis, the pieces are detailed with designer brand names, like Louis Vuitton, possibly representing how humanity is getting caught up with capitalism and materialistic things. I thought this was an interesting and symbolically realistic portrayal of the post-human. This media art allows for the question of how manipulated and far from reality and our natural states will humanity be in the future.

New Romance – MCA Exhibition


El Fin Del Mondo (The End of the World)

By Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho

The artwork that most interested me was the 2-channel video installation done by Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho. When I walked into the room showing the videos, I was captivated by the fact that two different videos are playing simultaneously. I am the kind of person who never wants to miss anything when watching films and I am never good at multitasking. For me, watching two different videos at the same time was a challenge. However soon after, I have noticed the resemblance of the atmosphere, sound, and mood of two films. I thought, maybe the two videos need to be screened simultaneously in a same space to complete each other.

The film shows two different time periods in the future. One is for an artist guy. In the short film, the guy continues to work on his art project even through the catastrophe. The other screen shows how a descendant of the survivors, a female character becomes aware of the aesthetic senses after the catastrophe. I loved how the film depicts the futuristic settings by carefully chosen objects, their materials, clothes, and interior.

While making their work, Kyungwon Moon & Joonho Jeon asked themselves these questions about a future where major climate change endangers human survival;

Will today’s social systems still be relevant in this future?
What values will sustain our existence?
Will art still be around?
What will we eat and wear?
Will sunsets still be beautiful?’

Don’t they make you pause and think about art and the future?
I found these questions very intriguing.  Will art still be around? Will sunsets still be beautiful?



New Romance: Art and The Posthuman


Digital Book Project (2016)

Arian Kang

People do say you should never judge a book by its cover, but what else can you do when you have nothing but the cover actually there?

From floppy disks to “the cloud” it cannot be denied that the world has certainly made some drastic changes to the way we view and read information in the twenty first century.

Books are no exception.

In the physical world, the knowledge in a book is quite literally encased, and there is a sense of the organic as you can pick it right off a shelf without having to wait for a machine to boot up and waste electricity. Being a tactile person, I have always enjoyed the feel of paper pages under my fingers. However, in Arian Kang’s sculptural work The Digital Book Project, that immediate sense of touch has been denied, making it one of the more vexing artworks I’ve viewed in the New Romance exhibition.

In both the stack of digital books and the sculptured shelves, all of the books presented are in fact hollow, with only the cover to show their meaning or intended value, not unlike how a digital book would be viewed through online stores. This when coupled with the ever-changing colourful LED lights gave me the impression that I wasn’t looking at a wall of books but merely a colourful billboard in which the objects are only ever superficial and symbolic, rather than functional.

Rather like much of what we see on the internet.

— Jess Unwalla



Posthuman Art (in reference to the MCA New Romance: art and the posthuman exhibition)

Posthumanism is a concept within the fields of science, art and philosophy that is concerned with the speculations of how humanity will evolve and how humans may exist beyond being human (transhumanism). The concept of the posthuman is one that has dramatically shifted in the last several decades as advancements in technology challenges common societal concepts relating to the human body.

“the 21st century has ushered in a redefinition of the body by cybernetic and biotechnological developments…the concept of ‘human’ has been broadly challenged while ‘posthuman’ and ‘transhuman have become terms of philosophical and scientific enquiry” (Francesca, 2014).

Artists have been exploring the idea of the posthuman ever since technological expansion in the 21st century became pervasive and as a result it is a key topic in media arts. In addition, analysing the concept of the posthuman also forces us to examine the role of technology in today’s modern society, where in which is saturates due to its ubiquitous nature.

“This saturation is so complete that we are not even fully conscious of it all. It has become so much a part of us: our ties to smart phones, virtual games, and social media are becoming increasingly umbilical and routine—so much so that these digital artifacts alone are changing the very fabric of our society.” (LaGrandeur, 2016)

This saturation is an integral attribute of posthumanism and very common issue that media artists often like to commentate on.

Many media artists today aim to answer the key philosophical and existential questions often associated with posthumanism and transhumanism, such as what does it mean to be human?  and what would the ‘futuristic human’ look like if pervasive and unbridled scientific advancements were made?

These questions were among the few that were presented by media artists from all over the world in the MCA exhibition – New Romance: Art and the Posthuman.

 Manoeuvres (2015) – Rebecca Baumann

MCA_Rebecca_Baumann_Manoeuvres_2015_2_HR.jpg.0x700_q85One of the works from the exhibition that really caught my attention was the work  Manoeuvres (2015) by Rebecca Baumann. This for me was a highlight simply because I was impressed by the level of technical expertise that is required to create something like this. I was intrigued by the creation process as this work did not use traditional modes of media but rather unique pieces of technology that would require it to be built from the ground up. The work is rather crude in that there are no screens which one would expect when viewing this work from afar. In fact if you get up close to the panels and view between the cracks you can see the circuit board. It’s this contrast between the crudeness and simplicity of the medium and the complexity of the entire work itself, that in my opinion makes this work unique and great.

In addition to the impressive technicality of the work, there is a also powerful conceptual aspect. The work has been described as a “chromatic narrative”. This is evident in the way one would experience the work, as they move through the space, panel to panel, closely examining the way the dots would flip and the little animations they produce. Further immersion of the narrative experience is reinforced by the loud accumulated, synchronised sound of every panel’s dots flipping over, making it such a powerful work.


El Fin del Mundo (The End of the World (2012) – Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho

El Fine del Mundo is a video installation made up of two screens, each depicting a separate piece of film. The film projects a somewhat dystopic envisioning of a chaotic future Earth, one that has been ravaged by the harsh effects of climate change. Conceptually, the film is a visual representation of an accumulation of existential questions and moments the artists had in the lead up to its creation. As a result, the film questions the purpose and role of art in today’s contemporary setting, this idea that “art these days seem to ‘end’ at pay checks rather than discourses” (Lee, 2013). Among other questions relating to what a post-apocalyptic Earth would look like and how humanity would function.

El Fin Del Mundo adopts a futuristic setting of the apocalypse and its aftermath to pose questions about the social function and role of contemporary art. The film is based on our post exhibit conversations expressing doubts and regrets about contemporary art.”(, 2016) – Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho’s artist statement.


Stelarc & Nina Stellars (2005 – 2016) – Blender


Stelarc is well respected in the field of media arts as he has had a long history of creating weird, daring and often controversial artworks pertaining to the concept of posthumanism. Usually his works are graphic and visceral, to which as a result they have great impact on the audience often provoking conversation. “Blender” in this case is no different as this bio-artwork consists of four pressurised gas tanks which are all connected up to this sphere-like structure housing human fat and other humanly liquids. Every once in a while the gas tanks start operating the device causing the liquids inside to stir as if it were inside a blender. ‘Blender’ is a work that embodies the main concerns many people (including artist) have associate with posthumanism which is the absolute loss of the human physical form; where technological augments of the human body go so far, humans no longer need a tangible form and can solely exist as an entity.

“In Blender, the body is not present in its recognizable form. The body has been extracted and recreated, given new life through non-human mechanizations. The body as material, not as subject matter, is a theme Stelarc has emphasized throughout his career.” (Smith, 2012)

Conceptually, the work asks its audience ‘what does it mean to be human?’ as it proposes the concept that perhaps what makes us human is not our physical form but rather our minds.


LaGrandeur, K. (2016). Posthumanism and Contemporary Art. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2016].

Ferrando, Francesca. ed.,(2014). “The Body” In: Post- and Transhumanism: an Introduction. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Available at:

Lee, S. 2013, ‘News from Nowhere: Chicago Laboratory’, Afterimage, 41(3), pp38 (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2016].

Smith, K. (2012). Stelarc | Art Practical. [online] Art Practical. Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2016].


dOCUMENTA 13: News From Nowhere, by Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho, [a Retrospective from the Future]



New Romance – Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Wonbin YANG (1980)


The works Segnisiter continuus (2012) and Umbra infractus (2012) were probably for me the most intriguing artworks during the exhibition. Before coming across the artworks during the tour, the only thought that came into mind was ‘how could someone throw garbage in an art exhibition’. But that wasn’t until after taking a closer look, and seeing them move. From further listening, reading, and researching, I found that the concept of Wonbin Yang’s Species series was to create an ecosystem of insect-like robots. With the purpose that they could thrive in a city. Other aspects that connected me with the artwork was the subject idea and how Wonbin Yang used everyday waste.

This aspect of using everyday waste to form an art piece connected me with the artwork, however in unusual ways. Thinking back to holidays and visiting family in Korea the artwork brought back strange memories of the amount of paper waste in the streets of Korea. During spring in countries like Australia, the wind blows leaves and grass clippings whilst in contrast to Korea, it’s usually newspapers, fast food wrappers or tissues.



Contemporary Art exhibition New Romance: art and the posthuman

Contemporary Art exhibition New Romance: art and the posthuman.



Alone with the gods 2016 is one of my favorite work in the exhibition, the sculptural work fascinates me, as I am always interested in works that shows the morbidity side of our mind. Before knowing the details behind the works, my first thoughts are how fascinating the details are on the sculptures, such as how each hair is planted on the “body” of the work and one of my favorite ones in Alone with the gods is the antique electronic piano, the way the lights dim on the “organisms” shows the chaotic spikes and movement of the sculpture.