It’s been a busy few weeks for The New Immortals project. To all the artists who have sent proposals and submissions of work, thank you. I have received more than 170 applications which are interesting, poignant, personal, scientific, rigorous, crazy, complex, imaginative and exciting. I can only apologise to everyone who is waiting patiently for a response. The curatorial process is going to be a long one, as I spend time reading everyone’s proposals, and think about dialogues that might develop between the works as they are put together in an exhibition. I promise that I will get back to you all eventually, but it is going to take some time.
Meanwhile, I’m planning two New Immortals events which will take place in the next two weeks. The first, a workshop for 6th form Ethics & Philosophy and Art scholars, will feature a presentation of works which demonstrate some of the intriguing ways which artists make work about complex and difficult subjects. We’ll be thinking about some of the questions prompted by The New Immortals project such as questions around population, sustainability, quality of life and euthanasia and we’ll be looking at a selection of artists’ work as well as watching videos like the one above of Julijonas Urbonas’ talking about his Euthanasia Coaster.
On the 12th March, I’ll be holding a public talk at Phoenix Brighton called, The New Immortals: Myths and Miracles. In this illustrated talk, I will present a selection of myths and miracles, from past and present, which can inform the way we think about human immortality. From tales of ancient civilisations, elixirs and rejuvenation machines to modern day resurrection stories and regenerative therapies, I’ll be talking about just a few of the multitude of myth and miracle stories which chart the progress of humanity’s sometimes bizarre attempts to outwit death.
The Myths and Miracles talk is one of several fundraising activities which I’ll be initiating for production of The New Immortals exhibition. Tickets for the talk are £5 each (+ 95p booking fee). Book via Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-new-immortals-myths-and-miracles-tickets-15860735888. All proceeds of ticket sales will go towards production costs of The New Immortals exhibition which will open at Phoenix Brighton in 2016.
I’ve been listening to Atul Gawande’s Reith Lectures, The Future of Medicine. A couple of weeks ago, he talked about the complexities of modern medicine and the importance of setting in place systems to ensure that complex and sophisticated procedures which can save lives can be managed effectively. He told the story of a sustained and complicated set of processes which, over a period of days and weeks, resulted in the miraculous recovery of a child who had been lost in a frozen pond, under the ice for more than half an hour and showing no signs of life for 90 minutes until life support systems were put in place which eventually resulted in her being effectively brought back from the dead. I had heard a story like this before, about a skier who had “died”, trapped and super-cooled under the ice in a frozen river and who had, over days, weeks and months, slowly recovered, but now it seems that with the correct system of procedures in place, the prospects of success in these sort of cases are good.
Since preparing for The New Immortals Superheroes-themed discussion event in September, several phrases from movies (Brian Blessed’s “…he’s alive! Gordon’s alive!”), song lyrics and titles (Culture Club’s “It’s a miracle”) have lodged in my mind. I decided to use some of the words and phrases to make small souvenirs for participants at future events – a set of badges.
Today, in honour of the doctors and nurses who successfully carried out those procedures which saved that little girls life, I wore my “It’s a miracle” badge.
Yesterday the Philae lander touched down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, hurtling through space at imponderable speed more than 500,000,000 km from earth and after a journey which has lasted more than 10 years – nothing short of a scientific and technological miracle. Modern life is full of miracles – and monsters. Sometimes it’s hard to recognise the miraculous from the monstrous and often opinions are divided, especially in situations where science and technology offer radical change or deviation from what we know as the norm. Of course it’s easier for us to accept radical change when the benefits are miraculous, obvious and direct, but often scientific development is met with hostility and fear of the monstrous, with the benefits and drawbacks not fully understood by a suspicious public.
1. an extraordinary occurrence that surpasses all known human powers or natural forces and is ascribed to a divine or supernatural cause, esp. to God.
2. a superb or surpassing example of something; wonder; marvel.
Like immortality, miracles are usually associated with religion and the gods; now though, it seems that scientists working across all areas of science, medicine and technology are our modern day miracle-workers.
Here’s a chance to wonder and marvel at some 1980s pop frivolity.
14th November 2014