A group of GCSE and A-level students came along to a presentation and workshop which I ran in collaboration with the Art and Philosophy & Ethics staff at Eastbourne College. The theme of the presentation, although based on The New Immortals project, also brought up the idea of art as a process and a medium which can be used to think about difficult questions. While preparing the presentation, I was also going through the long process of looking at 170 or more proposals from artists who had submitted their work in response to my Open Call out, so it was useful to be able to incorporate some of their images into my presentation.
The presentation introduced The New Immortals project and how it began, and raised some of the questions around the impact of science and technology on our lives by looking at images of other artists’ work such as that of Anne Guest, Diemut Strebe and Cohen Van Balen. It then went on to highlight some of the more philosophical and ethical issues brought up by these works such as the potential conflict between science and religion and what we believe as “truth”, and questions about the way we live and the effects of possible super-longevity on us as individuals and as a society – issues about sustainability, fairness, equality and what it is to be human.
Julijonas Urbanos’ video about his work, Euthanasia Coaster, was certainly a thought provoking example of an artist addressing serious concerns using imagination, dark humour and a sense of the absurd to help us approach a difficult subject.
During the development of The New Immortals project, it has occurred to me that a lot of artists use words and text when making work about difficult questions, and so the task given to the students following my presentation, was to make a text-based work in the form of a poster or placard, or as a design for a badge or t-shirt. We looked at Bob & Roberta Smith’s signs and placards, and Gillian Wearing’s “Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say” and I asked the students to think about the issues that seemed important to them and to carefully choose the words they would use to make their artwork in small groups together. The results can be seen in the images above.