It seems hard to feel as though we’re in an exhibition when we enter Benjamin Blaquart’s This Space Between You And Me, not because of the purely immersive nature of the installation, but above all because it is, quite frankly, a truly science-fictional setting. In this isolated school in the south of the Nièvre region, the “decor” is not solely limited to the arrangement of the artist’s various crea-tions/tures, but begins from the outside, when you prepare to enter this worn white prefab, in which the most unusual of scenarios might take place. The artist is interested precisely in the way in which architecture can generate scenarios1, and appears to have seen in this small building the ideal place to construct what is more or less akin to a biotechnological research laboratory, in which secret military experiments might be performed, aiming to procreate an autonomous organic system that is kept alive artificially.
Plunged into darkness and dimly lit by bluish neon lights, the room is thus populated with elements of different forms and with various functions, communicating through a network of arteries with a non-identified liquid circulating through them. These are supplied by a central vat – the “matrix” of this bionic system, operating in a closed circuit. While we do encounter small plants growing here and there, there is a lack of human presence, which is reduced to disembodied words that can be read on dehumanized media. Without knowing the goal of this apparatus, we notice muscular prostheses submitted to tests. This scene thus apparently presents the fabrication of the prosthetic means necessary for heightening humanity, or, rather, a way of making us live in harmony with our natural and technological environment, by rendering us more adapted to it and inseparable from it. Is this more apt? So, the future evolutionary phase of the human species thus finds itself hidden between four walls, aligning itself with machines and vegetation, forming an androgynous being that can only reproduce artificially. This hypothesis appears to be confirmed when we watch the video Well Being (2015) (screened via FPV immersion glasses), which can be interpreted as the 3D model of the body created in the room. This model presents ultra-perfected body parts grafted to one another to form this perfect body, in which each function guarantees a healthy mind in a healthy body, living in perfect eurhythmy with its milieu, fuelled by Taoist and Zen precepts, already so familiar in the vocabulary of managerial coaching or workplace well-being initiatives, transforming beings into more effective working machines instead of allowing them to liberate themselves... We are flirting here with Eugenics and the world depicted by Aldous Huxley2 in Brave New World (1932), which corroborates the emergence of the question “What have we done?” – a kind of sudden but belated awareness, involving an unforeseen and irreversible situation, a mute cry of distress, lost in limbo... And who is speaking or feeling, here? It is therefore important to ask ourselves whether or not this new body is endowed with emotions. Does it feel empathy? It is with this question that a poem3 displayed on an electronic screen begins, evoking the (love) relationships between individuals in the digital age. Later, we read “We don’t have to talk to each other anymore – Now, we can talk at each other instead”, or “I remember when we used to fuck each other – Now, we can fuck at each other instead.” These verses are ambiguous: are our relationships mediated by technology better or do they condemn us to emotional bankruptcy? Against the yardstick of progress in quantum physics, This Space Between You And Me seems to interpret this spatial zone between beings, not as a synonym of distance and isolation, but as the bearer of other kinds of social relations, enabling a different kind of empathy, like new alternative therapies that, thanks to quantum medicine, are now in efficient and bountiful supply via the telephone or the internet4.
Benjamin Blaquart does not intend to portray a future devoid of all human emotions, but, on the contrary, attempts to imagine how being might positively evolve in a world in which artifice and nature, virtuality and reality, would eventually merge. While, as his approach seems to imply, technology is increasingly interfering in relationships between living beings (even if it means replacing them), we don’t have to go into reverse, but instead, reconquer the technology while updating our ancestral relationship to nature – doing away with essentialism altogether – in order to live equitably and with a clear conscience within the world around us and with all it contains.
- See his selection of images Scripted spaces: http://scriptedspaces.tumblr.com/
- Of whom brother, Julian Huxley, was precisely a biologist theoretician and partisan of leftist Eugenics, but who, after many abuses of this practice during the XXth century, renamed it « transhumanism » (see « Aux origines du mot transhumanisme » by Olivier Dard and Alexandre Moatti, in Futuribles n°413, July-August 2016, Paris).
- Written by Dan Meththananda at the request of the artist.
- On this subject, see the principles of the HFC System: http://www.labofractal.net/systemehfc.html