"What Was I?": An exhibition on humanity and the end of time

Cheryl Heng
Viewers are pushed to consider the role of technology and robots, and how it may contribute to humanity's extinction.
Cheryl Heng
What Was I?: An exhibition on humanity and the end of time

If you were standing at the beginning of time, with a panoramic view of the whole future and you could choose which age to live in — where would you go?

These are the words spoken by a mixed-media android at an exhibition project by Polish artist Goshka Macuga. Developed for Fondazione Prada’s spaces, the show “What Was I?” brings together 26 artworks selected by the artist.

A post-apocalyptic era is depicted in the space, exploring what the world could be like at the end of mankind. Tying in seminal issues of time, beginnings and endings, collapse and renewal, it forces viewers to reflect on our relationship with technology and identity and what it means to be human.

"To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll" is the show's highlight, by London-based Polish artist Goshka Macuga.

It is an android, an abandoned human-like presence, delivering a soliloquy. The monologue is constructed from a blend of significant speeches in the history of humankind. Macuga pricks viewers to consider the role of technology and robots, and how it may contribute to humanity’s extinction.

Other artworks on show in the mansion include those by artists of the Zero Group, Italian Abstract art and experimental movement from the 50s to the 70s. Macuga’s work as a researcher, curator and artist goes beyond history to trace it back to possible futures, challenging visitors to be ‘better than human,’ to ‘go beyond human.’

Upon exiting, the name of the exhibition is hung in neon light: “What Was I?” a quote from the 1818 novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Info

Date: Through June 2

Venue: Prada Rong Zhai

Address: No. 186 Shaanxi Rd N.

Time: Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday: 10am-5pm, Friday/Saturday: 10am-8pm, Closed on Monday.

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