THE MODULAR BODY
A Project by Floris Kaayk
Modular Body is an online science fiction storytelling project, composed of 56
interconnected documentary clips that share the story of Oscar – a modular
lifeform created from 3D printed organs of human cells and an electric brain.
In redesigning the human body into an open modular system, the artwork’s
narrative addresses issues such as those of biotechnological development and
the impact it has on human life.
The work engages with questions such as to what extent biotechnology shapes our lives; where is the line between natural and artificial and what is human nature. The philosopher Joanna Zylinska proposes that human nature has already always been technical, yet during the last century – a period of emergence of new media and new technologies – the technological advancement and expansion over life has evoked a process of acceleration and intensification of human technical condition. Nonetheless, the process of discernment from nature defines the ‘nature’ of the human, who inscribes within a nature-culture dichotomy – a concept, developed further by the philosopher Boyan Manchev, who argues that the recognition of the originary technical condition and constant transformability of the human is the only way in which we could resist the constant flow of technopower and the performativity of technicity.
The Modular Body is a video work, based on the internet, using the web space and social media for displaying and transmitting its message to the audiences. With reference to the theoretical analysis of Krzysztof Ziarek about the significance of a work of art in contemporary society and its incorporation within or contestation of the mechanisms of technicity (understood as the modern attitude towards life, which is dominated by power and manipulation), it can be argued that the project about Oscar is integrated within the operative system of power-dominated relationality, as, being online-based, it is using ways of communication already implicated within domination. On the other hand, the story it narrates, is imaginary, and being positioned at the borderline between real and fictional, as it uses ‘real’ figures and ‘documents’ the entire process of the creation of Oscar, it becomes credible, which allows it questioning the ‘work’ of digitality. Therefore, its fictionality generates a ‘play’, which uncovers the power at work in technicity, and in this manner contests the power-monopolised modality of social existence.
Touching upon these aspects leads to the proposition that The Modular Body positions itself on the border between contestation and implication within the power system of the current world: as an online project it is involved in the operational systems of hegemony, which, however, becomes challenged by raising questions such as those previously mentioned: of human body, nature and power of the biotech industries, and by its fictionality, which allows disarticulation of technicity of power.
Text: Iva Buzhashka
Iva Buzhashka is an art theorist, born in Sofia, BG, in 1986. She graduated from Sofia University, Sofia, Bulgaria (BA in History, 2009), La Sapienza, Rome, Italy (speacialisation in cultural studies, 2010), NBU, Sofia, Bulgaria (MA in Art History, 2014), Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark (Erasmus programme, 2013), Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands (MA in Contemporary Art Studies, 2017).
Currently she lives in Amsterdam, NL, where she works as a teacher of Bulgarian language and culture in two Bulgarian schools (Leiden and Amsterdam)
She participated in various projects: creating a curriculum for art museum pedagogical activities (Framer Framed, Amsterdam); organization and production of exhibitions (at Mediamatic, Framer Framed, Amsterdam), festivals (Copenhagen Photo Festival, Denmark; Envision, Costa Rica).
Her professional interests are in the field of contemporary visual arts – the concept of temporality; ritual and spiritual artistic practices, bio-art and technologisation; pedagogical methodologies in the field of art education.
Publications: Exhibition review of It Won’t Be Long Now, Comrades!, Framer Framed Magazine, Amsterdam, NL, Oct. 2017; ‘The Space of Χώρα. A perspective on Contemporary Art’, Leiden University, Leiden, July 2017; ‘Byzantine Tradition in Modern Art: Ivan Milev’, Sledva, N33, Sofia, BG, Feb. 2016/ Liternet, May 2018.
Floris Kaayk is a Dutch visual artist and filmmaker, born in Tiel, NL, in 1982. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts Sint-Joost in Breda, NL (BA in Animation), and from Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, NL (Master in Fine Arts), and he currently lives in The Hague, NL. He became known to a wider audience with his fictional documentaries The Order Electrus and Metalosis Maligna, which were presented and awarded at exhibitions, film festivals and art events all around the globe.
In 2012 his online media project Human Birdwings reached the world press. Number of social media videos posted on the weblog of his alter ego, Jarno Smeets, who claimed to be the first human able to fly, were shared by TV stations and radioshows, such as ABC news, CBS news, and Dutch primetime television show De Wereld Draait Door, where Kaayk revealed that it is all a fiction.
In 2012 he was named ‘Creative City’ ambassador by the City of The Hague, and in 2016 he was appointed Fellow of HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and Fellow of Next Nature Network.
Kaayk won a Gouden Kalf Award for his latest project The Modular Body – an online science fiction story around the creation of OSCAR, a living organism built from human cells, which is set on various social media.
In his work Floris Kaayk poses questions such as: what is the influence of social media on the viewer? What is real and what is staged? Kaayk uses social media imagery to stimulate an urgent and topical debate on the ethical issues surrounding the modification of human material, challenging his audience to overthink new technologies, both in terms of medical innovation, or social media itself.
Curator: Iva Buzhashka
More information at themodularbody.com
31 May – 27 June 2018
0GMS, Sofia City Gallery