NEW INC, the New Museum’s cultural incubator, will present “Only Human,” an exhibition opening April 29, 2018. The show at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City displays the work of the first cohort of NEW INC artists participating in the artist-in-residency program at Nokia Bell Labs.
Three former NEW INC members—Sougwen Chung, Lisa Park and HAMMERSTEP (Jason Oremus and Garrett Coleman)—collaborated with Nokia Bell Labs researchers to produce new artistic projects inspired or enabled by Bell Labs technologies. As the culmination of this residency program, the exhibition brings together three projects that the artists created over the past year.
Nokia Bell Labs has a history of supporting the creation of new art by leveraging innovative technologies, beginning with the pioneering Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) program inaugurated in 1967. Bell Labs has recently reinvigorated the E.A.T. program as part of its mission to invent the future and to break down the communication and cultural barriers that exist between people by sharing senses, emotions, experience, cognition and sentiments through new modes of communication.
Similarly, NEW INC has furthered the New Museum’s commitment to new art and ideas as an incubator for creative entrepreneurs working at the intersection of art, design and technology. The partnership between NEW INC and Nokia Bell Labs represents a leading collaboration fusing art and technology to change humanity.
Mana Contemporary has established itself around forward-thinking partnerships that explore unconventional dynamics in the arts. “Only Human” represents an ideal collaboration within Mana’s New Media Program.
The three projects in “Only Human” are focused on themes of human-computer collaboration and inter-subjectivity, the nature of interpersonal relationships in a digitally mediated world, surveillance and power dynamics in a technocratic society, and the inevitable compromises that define our symbiotic relationship with technology. Each work strives to experiment with new artistic forms while also offering a speculative take on existing social structures and the potential implications of emerging technology.
Despite their strong focus on recent and future technologies, each of the three projects ultimately strives to emphasize qualities that seem innately human: empathy, intuition and unspoken forms of communication such as gesture, touch, rhythm and motion. The works consider what distinguishes human nature from the tools that we create. They underscore that while these tools are inherently part of us, they are also a product of our own imaginations.