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Rsearch Festival at Peckham Levels
UAL Online Journal Contribution

02 / 12 / 2022

This essay highlights different approaches to translate the body into the digital space and reflects on how this affects our understanding of this body.

The body in the in-between – painting the glitched body

rendering of a head that is an image for my writing



In this essay I will discuss how digital technology is affecting our understanding of the contemporary human body and where we are defining its new limits. I will present other effects that our interaction with digital technology has had on our relationships with our bodies and our perception of our place in the world. This first section will be focusing on the environment, the rebuilding of our identity and the redefinition of the human body. In the second half of this essay I will highlight artistic practices that focus on reshaping the body in this hybrid environment. I will discuss the potential of digital and traditional mediums to visualise this shift between new embodiment and disembodiment. I will then close my essay with an outlook on new concepts to help imagine a future that is more inclusive and in harmony with nature.

The body in the in-between – painting the glitched body

02 / 12 / 2022

“The question of how we have to deal with the technical progress of digitisation does not answer the question of who we are.”

Armin Grunwald, 2022

Armin Grunwald, German physicist, philosopher and technology assessor understands the relationship between humans and technology as a reciprocal relationship. For him, a peculiar dynamic of its own emerges here, in which the state of our knowledge changes the way in which we perceive the world. He interprets our view of the world and our role in it, as a mirror of the technologies that surround us and as an attempt to see what they may mean for us in the future. That is why he puts up for debate whether we can understand ourselves today as “homo digitalis” and whether our own self-image is now increasingly taking on the features of a processing machine. (Grunwald, 2022)

What are the consequences of our current dynamics for the environment in which we live in, accompanied by ever new technological achievements, and how are we forced to act and rethink our values?

How does our exposure to digital technology affect our understanding of the contemporary body?


“What strange form of intelligence is it that enables great accomplishments to be achieved but is unable to ask the question – will we survive and how can we ensure our survival?”

Noam Chomsky, 2016

If we do not change our ways the planet is on track to face a 2.7 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures over pre-industrial levels. Ice sheets are destabilising, fresh water is becoming scare, and a record number of species are going extinct. (Duke, 2021) Despite these looming scenarios, the discussion around climate change remains largely unresolved. Noam Chomsky, former Professor of Linguistics at the MIT and one of the best-known linguists of our time, criticises that those acting against climate change are still off the mainstream as it is not the main topic in the electoral campaigns and seldom brought up in media commentary in his home country the US. What is discussed are “tweets at 3 am, various kinds of vulgarity, anything but serious problems, even though climate change is the most serious problem ever risen in human history” (Chomsky, 2016).

Why are we on such a destructive path and how do digital technologies and our social model affect our willingness and ability to collectively reverse the trend?

According to philosopher and activist Silvia Federici capitalism has undermined the self sufficiency of every region and created a total economic interdependence, even among distant countries.
While Globalisation generates the need for an unlimited exploitation of labor and the natural environment, she further states, that this capitalist primitive accumulation continues to require the degradation of human life and the reconstruction of social hierarchies and divisions on the basis of gender, race and age. (Federici, 2018) It is the capitalist attack on humanities basic means of reproduction, the land, the house, and the wage to expand the global work force and reduce the cost of labor that has formed a global and impoverished labor force, which is “reduced to abstract labor, pure labor power, with no guarantees, no protections and (the worker) always ready to be moved from place to place and job to job” (Federici, 2018, p.18).

This deprivation of collective property and of the right to self-sufficiency has led to a point where “all we have are the bodies we are housed in, gendered or otherwise”, glitch feminist Legacy Russell voices, she further explains that “under the sun of capitalism, we truly own little else, and even so, we are often subject to a complicated choreography dictated by the bureaucratic and rhizomatic systems of institutions” (Russell, 2020, p.10).
In the industrialised countries people start to seek for alternatives to a life regulated by work and the market, “both because a regime of precarity work can no longer be a source of identity formation and because of their need to be more creative“ (Federici, 2018, p.195). There is a high demand to rethink the way humanity currently operates, to remould it in new ways and to open up new spaces to meet demands for a general rethinking of the priorities of our society. Federici demands to generate a deeper understanding of the natural constraints with which we operate on this planet. She thinks that our capitalist society has in the long term deprived the human body of its ways to connect and interact with nature and the environment, “for which no technological device has compensated” (Federici, 2018, p.191). We should start to acknowledge the cost of the technological innovations by which we are mesmerised and try to create a different social economic system. 

But what is the role of data and digital technology in this search for a new structure and how do Computerisation and digital technologies influence our ways of engagement?

Hsu insists on the fundamental corporeality of our encounter with such virtual systems, because he believes that the body does not act as a disposable prosthetic, but as “a kind of interface, a place that connects various systems of reality” (Jeppe Ugelvig in Miguel Abreu Gallery). He brings the body into a space that is formed by the synthetic, the technological and the artificial but his use of material remains completely organic. Using innovative fabrication techniques and materials such as silicone and alkyd he mimics bodily orifices, organic matter, or biotic growths. At the root of these works is the question of technology’s effects on human beings. (Julie Belcove in Miguel Abreu Gallery) In his practice he aims to “get into the synthetic, the technological and the artificial but at the same time to bring in the body as well” (Hsu in Art Basel, 2019).

This begs the question whether the use of new technology is necessary to talk about technology, or whether a purely painterly approach can express ideas and changes of the body equally well?

Hsu explains this disregard for new technology in his process with his lack of interest in making art using technology as a new medium, as he perceives the current situation as much more complex. For him, not only is the world becoming more technological, but the media that artists can use are also changing. Hsu insists on staying within the medium of painting, which has been continuously used by artistic movements of the past to express differences in our way of life over time. In his view, artworks created with new technologies lose this connection to the ongoing discourse of the past and therefore cannot express change as radically. His focus is not on the use of new technologies, but on recording how the way we relate to them is changing. (Hsu in Art Basel, 2019)
I believe in the potential of painting as a medium to visualise our contemporary experience in terms of progressive digital immersion, but I think it is necessary to connect the painted work to a virtual or digital dimension as well, given that the way we approach works of art is changing as well. I feel that through the use of new technologies, the artist can more honestly experience the sense of immersion and the effects of digital space on their physical space, and therefore can use or critique this from a point of internalised learning.

“It’s all physical. The virtual is just a different type of physicality, a designed tangibility perhaps. To me each physical artwork is a memory of the virtual, a capture of the moment of the experience of the dimensional work.”

Sougwen Chung, 2022

In this second section, I would like to highlight artists who bring the body into the digital  environment in which the body itself also takes on a new shape. Both change in relation to each other, be it the body adapting to the new environment or the environment stabilising the new body. In the following, I also position myself on whether and how much technology is necessary as a creative medium in order to describe this duality in today’s way of life.

“What is a body without a name? An error.”

Legacy Russel, 2020

The body as our closest connection to ourselves and to others is directly affected by this new flow of ones identity. Russel defines its “in-between” as a core component of survival in todays society.
For her there is no need for neither a masculine nor feminine, neither a male nor female body but for a spectrum across which individuals can feel empowered again to define themselves for themselves. (Russell, 2020) The glitched body opens itself up towards an outside and embraces new connections. This Glitch holds the possibility to regain independent control over the body and thus also to counteract the normative pressure of capitalism. The body should no longer find itself under the pressure to fit “within a binary in order to comply with the prescriptions of the everyday” (Russell, 2020, p.10).
It should be glitched, bended and in constant movement from the outset even if this movement triggers error. It then has the chance to become the catalyst to a variance of selfdom. Theorist Nathan Jurgenson critiques that our new way of existing in a “digital dualism” could create a split of our identity into online selfdom and real life. (Jurgenson, 2011) For Russell the skin or the body we inhabit in the digital world ultimately influences and engages with our physical body. She refuses to define the life we are living in our organic body as the “real” life but instead as one AFK (away from keyboard). (Russell, 2020) I find it somewhat questionable to make the keyboard the center of this definition, since we do not determine our physical presence nor our digital presence by our proximity to it. I perceive the screen as the link between these realities through which we are “en rout to becoming [our] avatars” (Russell, 2020), continue to play, experiment, and build via the Internet as means of strengthening the loop between the online and screen based reality. This motion of a loop is one of the central ideas that I am incorporating into my works. I think that the freedom to explore alternative realities should always lead back to the one reality we all share, which can only be modified if we dare to move away from the screen.

Recording technology’s integration with the body and probing the cognitive as well as physical effects of transformative technological advances on our lives, artist Tishan Hsu assess that technology is becoming an extension of the human body, which is a condition that is destined to intensify over time. He raises the question how we are going to be embodied as technology is going to get closer and closer to our experiencing of the world. (Art Basel, 2019) For him there is no clear divide between the digital and the bodily experience as the feeling of pain can still be triggered by our interaction in the digital space, which ultimately makes a real impact on our body and our life away from the screen. “You can go as far as you want into the artificial, into the future, into the synthetic [but] unless you can get rid of pain completely, you are not going to be able to get rid of the body” (Hsu in Art Basel, 2019).

Also artist Vivian Greven reflects a life in the state of dualism in her paintings. She understands the character of our present times as being shaped by the internet and social media and thus dissolves the hierarchies between original, reproduction and simulation in her luminous compositions. (Kadel Willborn)
She searches for new ways to express the feeling of interconnection and of getting in touch with each other through a digital screen. Her purely painted images concentrate on the “discrepancy between the beautiful surface and the pain of the body underneath” (Greven). Addressing gender politics she states that her painted bodies are about love and longing for an “unconditional yes to every existence.” (Greven) This yes to every existence is also a leading force in Christina Quarles paintings. She uses the body very differently form Greven as she renders its shape in a state of visual chaos.

It is the “disorganised body in a state of excess” Quarles states, that expresses her daily experience with ambiguity and “seeks to dismantle assumptions of our fixed subjectivity through images that challenge the viewer to contend with this” (Quarles). Her work explores the universal experience of existing within a body, as well as the ways race, gender, and sexuality intersect to form complex identities.

How does a glitched physical body that functions as a portal to code and information navigate the natural world?

“People are becoming portals of internet experience”, Stelarc states, “we are accelerated by machines we are enhanced by our instruments, our computational capabilities are amplified with new technologies so the body can be seen as a construct of meat, metal and code” (Stelarc, 2016, 2:48). Self-proclaimed cyborg Neil Harbisson feels that, after having an antenna implanted in his scull that translates colours into sounds, “being united to cybernetics makes (him) feel that (he is) technology.” Surprisingly he also expresses that through this he is feeling connected to nature in a stronger way than before the adjustment as “the more you extend your senses, the more that you realise exists.” (Harbisson in Donahue). He understands his life’s work in promoting a more inclusive world in which “othered” bodies are as accepted as equal.

The problem of non-binary bodies being “othered” is rooted in our current process of programming new creative technologies. Even if we would create thousands of boxes to choose from the one we are put into will always feel outdated pretty soon. They do not define who we are, we are not our gender, our search history, or our data sets and posts and we have to leave the online space from time to time to free our minds from the bubbles recommendation systems aim to keep us in. To be able to participate on most social platforms it is still necessary to fit into these predefined parameters of a standardised name, ticking the gender box or alternatively identifying with the term “other”. Russel argues: “What is a body without a name? An error” (Russel, 2020, p.75). “I am not Other. You name me Other” (Russel, 2020, p.76).

“Virtuality brings a fluidity to identities which once had to be fixed.”

Sadie Plant, 1997

Being surrounded by all the advancements and conveniences modern technologies have provided us with it has become difficult for us to assess the full cost of any new forms of production. Otto Ulrich, a German sociologist, is of the opinion that only modern technology´s capacity to transfer its costs over considerable times and spaces paired with our consequent inability to see the suffering caused by our daily usage of technological devices “allow the myth that technology generates prosperity to persist” (Ulrich in Federici, 2018, p.190).
New technologies have neither reduced the workweek nor the burden of physical work. We work now more than ever and in extreme cases even die from being overworked (see Japan: “death by work” in Federici, 2018, p.192). Digital labor is producing new levels of stress that are reflected by the epidemic of mental illnesses – depression, panic, anxiety, attention deficit, dyslexia – now typical in most technologically advanced countries like the U.S. The human-machine refuses to work in its new environment in which every move is being monitored, registered, and possibly punished. (Federici, 2018)

Digital technologies posses a disruptive power which holds the danger of digitising or automating processes too carelessly, which at their core, however, live on interpersonal interaction. (Mitscherlich, 2022) For Federici the new “social” tool of interconnectivity is an illusion as in her opinion it has just produced a “new type of isolation and new forms of distancing and separation” (Federici, 2018, p.192).
A new individualism is on the rise, in which the common good is exchanged with the personal pursuit of a “good life” as the Internet gradually replaces more and more points of interpersonal contact.
By loosing these points of contact we are exposed to a new kind of solitude. For her the cost of Computerisation is much higher than the new gains from the information revolution in our knowledge-based society. We have lost our close connection to nature and thus our resistance against exploiting it as we opted from being surrounded by nature to being surrounded by closed walls. (Federici, 2018)
Haddadin, Chair of Robotics and System Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich refers to this and defines our contemporary age as a “cold age” in which the digital and physical worlds merge to the dawn of a meta-universe in which humans are neglected as beings of constant physical movement and only the humans mind is given attention. (Haddadin, 2022) Multidisciplinary Artist Olafur Eliasson, whose works celebrate a fascination with the world that surrounds us, also believes that „we are getting disconnected and disembodied by all this digital presence“ (Eliasson in Nowness, 2020). He questions where art finds its place in this development and if we are changing some core values in the way we interact digitally today. In his recent AR works he tries to redirect the human gaze to nature because otherwise he fears that we might be just stuck in a life in a 2-dimensional flat screen. (Nowness, 2020)

The ongoing merge of the digital and the physical world has caused a rethinking of the whole concept of identity. As these complex planes and truths come together, it becomes almost impossible to maintain a purely authentic identity. The ever-growing demand for more transparency online has led to the development of a new digital Taylorism, “which is permeating all areas of our lives with the unrelenting pressure to perform” (Cook et al., 2017).
In her music singer Sevdaliza provocatively doubts her own existence in a performance-obsessed society in which she feels deprived of her free development. She hopes A.I. could pave the way to a new form of existence by releasing the humans from the pressure to perform like an efficient machine. (Sevdaliza in Olsen, 2021) People have accepted and created false identities online, they became the curators of their online identity, turned the boundaries of gender into fluid areas and multiplied their identity into different versions of the one, which can lead to a loss of clarity in defining identity. (Cook et al., 2017)

In contrast to Cook, Sadie Plant understands the digital space as the realm to finally be ones true self as “virtuality brings a fluidity to identities which once had to be fixed” (Plant, 1997, p.325). Genders can suddenly be bent and blurred and time-space coordinates are lost, meaning for new generations that they have the opportunity to “reprogram guilt, deny authority, confuse identity, and have no interest in the reform or redecoration of the ancient patriarchal code” (Plant, 1997, p.326). Identity is a process in motion rather than a fixed state of being. The individual finds himself in an “identity zone” which can always be reconfigured without having to be stuck in it. (Jeffery, 2013) Cook cites this movement of fluid identity as so widely accepted that Facebook has allowed its users to choose from 58 different gender options, ranging from androgynous to gender-specific and non-binary. In 2017 already more than two-thirds of Generation Z confirmed that gender is no longer as determinative of identity as it used to be. (Cook et al., 2017) However, this freedom also harbors the risk of confusion, since the stability of identity is weakened or even discarded from gender. (Asendorf, 2021) „The new flow of one’s own identity thus eludes any logic, which is nevertheless necessary to identify with oneself“ (Irigaray in Russell, 2020). As “the idea of the body is [becoming] inconceivably vast” (Anais Duplan in Russell, 2020, p.41) we will have to practice to read others carefully as an exercise of trust, intimacy, belonging and homecoming.

The state of our



The body as

malleable material


The effect on our sense of

identity and connection


How does our body reshape

in this hybrid environment?


Digital artist Jacolby Satterwhite approaches the quest for true embodiment from a perspective entirely opposed to Hsu’s critical perspective. Working towards healing his body internally and externally from ruptures he experiences in the physical world, Satterwhite disintegrates his body into a network of digital worlds that virtually emerge and are embedded in his own joints. In his video work “Pygmalion’s Ugly Season” the viewer enters into his private world that he constructs from within himself. What he finds “are cloaked meditations on desire, human nature, healing and finding utopia” (Lambo, 2022).

Satterwhite expresses a desire for unattainable perfection that implodes under its own pressure and gives way for a confrontation with a multitude of utopias. He is creating the landscape he yarns for and populates it with people close to him that are appearing to be fully immersed in this new environment. This Virtual Reality becomes a catalyst to communicate what is feels like to live in his body to the world on the outside. It creates the ultimate transparency. Seemingly subjective, this work is based on peoples responses to the question of what utopia would look like to them. Their responses of consumerism, nature, infrastructure, domesticity, religion and philosophy are matched with the floating spherical worlds that the viewer enters into. The bodies in his VR work are seemingly inhabiting the space but their movements are prerecorded, inserted and not actually reacting the virtual world around them.

What would happen if a replica of the body is inserted into VR and has the power to be affected by the virtual scene?

The architect and digital designer Dor Cohen is fascinated with the moving body in space and time, and how related phenomena translate to virtuality. In his practice he interlaces the physical and the digital in thought-provoking films, illustrations, and virtual reality experiences. (RCA, 2022) In Dors video work “Estrangement”, he himself enters a virtual scene that is almost completely vacant except from his body that is being mirrored at a distance. With every move towards his mirrored second body, its form changes in a deformation that is distorted synchronously to his movements. The digital body becomes a mark. As he is gaining control over the other body he unlocks a limitless array of new moves. His work challenges the notion of embodiment and opens up new possibilities to think about our own disembodiment. (Cohen)

I relate Cohens dancing and shapeshifting bodies to Satterwhite’s video work, in which two bodies can been seen dancing and reacting to one another in VR. The bodies seemingly want to connect and intertwine. For me, this expresses the striving for a more tangible community in the digital space. Both visualise the dream of actually coming together in a virtual but also a more embodied way. The fusion of bodies and the notion of disembodiment can also be observed as a central element in Kumbirai Makumbe’s work. Their work “Living Doesn’t Mean You’re Alive” from 2021 questions the body as a site of emotional emancipation along with the notion of reaching a technological singularity. Drawn to the materiality and malleability of digital matter and the infinite possibilities of its employability, they transform the body to explore future ways of being in a body. (arebyte, 2022) Makumbe explore that what is lost of one’s physicality during a transformation towards progress. “It is a moment of questioning what truly fuelled their yearning to emancipate themselves from the confines of their biological human body. What is the body itself? or what is the experience of inhabiting their body in the context it existed within?” (arebyte, 2022) Their work has a very soft formal language, wafting organic matter is combined with amorphous figures that are held in a common fusion, sighingly circling on floating plateaus. The human has emancipated himself from his body and has ascended to an “informorph”;  a virtual body of information that possesses self-awareness and “scentience” (arebyte, 2022). Makumbe pose the question of what could be gained and what could be lost if humanity succeeds in separating mind from body, and compels us to rethink, if that is even a desirable outcome.

Hsu sees us as unable to answer this question in the here and now. According to him, all that can be said is that being human means being in the world and nothing more. We can only comprehend the here and now, and the generations to come who will actually inhabit the future may already have a very different understanding of what their world holds in store for them and how they want to live in it. While we may know what they have lost, they will not be aware of it because they have never experienced those aspects. According to Hsu, we are already seeing this shift in the younger generations who grew up with smartphones and the constant connection to the Internet. They already live in a different world where they feel no inhibitions or concerns about the technologies and devices they use. Hsu derives this from man’s ability to quickly adapt to his environment, be it better or worse than that of the previous generation. (Art Basel, 2019)
I agree with Hsu that the way people interact with new technologies, and especially in the digital space, is very much related to their age. There is a certain reluctance and skepticism among the older generation. The transparency increasingly sought by younger generations is rejected by the older ones, who may be more aware of potential risks, external manipulative forces, and profit-maximising entities advancing on their patterns of behaviour and information. However, I believe that it is of paramount importance not to lose the connection between both generations, in order to facilitate a progression in how we combine the physical and the digital experience in the future, driven by the imagination and curiosity of younger generations and stabilised and reflected from the point of view of a different lived experience, which may contain values and truths that would otherwise be forgotten.

New media artist Pascal Sender is one of the first artists to aim for a bridge between generations. What makes the works of Pascal Sender a quite unique reflection of modern life is the innovation that he has created so that the pictures can be viewed in Augmented Reality. He has hand coded an app, so that when viewing his paintings through your phone camera, another digital perspective is revealed. (Smith, 2020) His paintings seem to jump off the canvas appearing as three-dimensional forms, moving and interacting with the viewer.

“His work never settles, it’s a movable feast of dancing lines, percussive and unapologetic. It can’t be passively viewed, it has to be experienced” (Smith, 2020). According to Smith the viewer has “somehow stopped being able to absorb, preferring the definitive record of an iPhone photograph to the data allowance of our own brains. We shoot to remember, rewarding ourselves with a digital record of having been somewhere or experienced something.” The flood of images we collect but never fully perceive is diluting and devaluing each image. Ironically Sender depicts the human figure in even this moment, glaring at the screen of their smartphones, moving trough life in a state of distraction and unawareness. Sender questions the modern world and our need to capture and categorise. He creates work that cannot be formatted to the oblongs of our phones, by using exactly this device to commandeer our screens just to keep us focussed on his work in the now. (Smith, 2020) Sender recalls the notion of two different levels of engagement with his work. Whereas people entered the gallery to simply look at the painting, their “son or daughter had the phone in their hand and they were looking through the phone at the painting because it was natural or they wanted that” (Sender, 2022). He feels that it is getting increasingly harder to give an entry point and to let people in. While the middle-aged viewer sees the AR addition simply as an add-on, a child would not see it in that way at all. It would actually see the work in that moment, because it is able to interact and play with it. The artist Niall Ashley explores this virtual extension of his paintings through complex performances that take place in a dual environment that is shifting back and forth between a digital and a physical world and between his digital and his physical body. (Gordon, 2021) He switches between the two modes of existing with ease and thereby inspires the viewer to also search for this balance in his own way of existing in the in-between. In this gravitation towards the digital and the simulated the way we perceive the world around us also changes.

The body as


Can a virtual second world be appealing or does VR remain purely subjective?

For Plant, it is irrelevant to differentiate between the virtual and the actual reality, because for her, the digital space is an anarchic system whose functionality the users adapt and can transfer to real life in parallel. The digital offers a „new tactile environment“ (Plant, 1997, p. 325) that is uncontrollable and capable of anything.
Famous multimedia artists Refik Anadols metaverse project called DATALAND in partnership with Epson, L-Acoustics and LG Displays is promoted with the words “DATALAND marks a turning point in data and AI aesthetics at the convergence of cutting-edge neuroscientific experiments and virtually enhanced physical reality” (Campos, 2022). What particularly stands out here for me is the expression of virtually enhanced physical reality. It conveys reality as something that should be enhanced in order to be celebrated. He describes this new experience as re-defining the relationship between perception, presence, and sensation. „The immersive aesthetics will create unprecedented spaces and invent cutting-edge poetic algorithms for new meditative experiences in metaverse in which the sculptures adapt to the humans motion“ (Anadol via Twitter, 2022; RAS, 2022). Even thought the launch was supposed to take place in the beginning of this year the project has not come to life yet, with the closure of the waiting list being the only update on the projects website.
The most prominent attempt to create a functioning virtual universe today is of course Facebooks “Metaverse” project which aims to revolutionise the way in which we interact and connect online. But a new report shows that barely anyone is spending as much time in Horizon Worlds, which are free-to-play virtual reality metaverse that lets users create and visit “worlds” with friends or strangers, as it was expected and that most user-created worlds are even going completely unvisited. Initially Facebook hoped for 500,000 monthly active users but this number had to be scaled down to around 200,000. WJS reports have shown that the majority of these worlds are almost never being visited by anyone but their initial creator, while others complain about the in-game people not looking “real” enough with their legs missing from the scene. (Zwiezen, 2022)

Hito Steyerl refers to this phenomenon as “bubble vision”. According to her, the viewer of a virtual reality is fully immersed into something that he is not part of. He is exchanged for a blind spot in the center, which means that he is missing from the scene even though he is placed at its center. For her this symbolises the fate of humanity as she connects the idea of the human disappearing from the center of his creation to a disappearance of the idea of an antrophocene. (Serpentine Galleries, 2019)

The anthropocene defines the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on the climate and the environment and thus the desire of mankind to place itself above all forms of life, in control of every development on earth and ready to irrevocably shape it to its liking.

Bubble vision in VR comes into play as an analogy to mankind consistently thriving for a possibility to hand over their power “to opaque automated procedures, to black box algorithms, all sorts of crystal ball gazing” (Steyerl in Serpentine Galleries, 2019) as soon as they are aware of possessing this power. Steyerl goes even further and assesses the potential of “worldcreation” within these bubbles. She defines the qualities of such an artificial sphere as very limited. Firstly it can only reflect the likeness of its creator, meaning it will include all of his biases or the biases of society that are being imposed on this creator. Secondly they consist of nothing but yourself and “you are not only missing [from it] but you are also on your own” (Steyerl in Serpentine Galleries, 2019).

I must admit that I share this point of view with Steyerl. At this point I don’t feel it is possible to share VR experiences enough – I exclude gaming from this statement. I admire the openness with which the artists expresses new utopias or protopias in VR, but I find it necessary to bring these ideas and desires into the physical world, be it in the form of painting or AR. I think the viewer needs to be able to remain in their reality in order to be receptive to new concepts and transfer them into their world, rather than conceiving them as mere realms of fantasy. From my point of view VR can also immerse the viewer into real environments to realise certain realities that must be improved or even enter ecological sites that need to be preserved. Maybe it could accelerate the general awareness for such issues in society, even if one is just entering these spaces within ones virtual body. I think that people should rather develop for their environment than create purely for themselves. The idea of the metaverse seems to me like the attempt to create a retreat that can be colourful, predictable, safe and infinitely monetisable. I am not surprised that the majority of people is not giving in to this escape reality, which proves that it remains necessary to connect the digital experience to the life outside of the screen, which is so much more attractive than any simulation could ever be.

The body in
VR and AR


“What might become of the future we will never inhabit is not clear – we know where the future is but not entirely what it is.”

Giun, 2017

Why are we imagining the future as increasingly intervened with algorithms and digital devices? Can the images we create help us imagine and thereby build an alternate path towards a more inclusive and sustainable future that can manifest outside of a screen?

Through new images and visions of the future we create the chance to emancipate from complacency towards a future that not only consists of old values and adopted mindsets. Artist can post radical views of the future that do not rely on the retelling of big tech fantasies of power, control and “subversion that are built from colonial imaginings, capitalist, patriarchal and imperialist ideologies, but instead emancipate us from the complacency we have been acclaimed to” (arebyte, 2022).

Digital Artist Matteo Zamagni offers a multi-scalar analysis of the consequences wrought by disaster capitalism and its lasting impact on the planets ecosystem. He envisions that the destructive disconnect between nature and culture might be patched by “re-positioning ourselves and our technologies within nature rather that outside of it” (arebyte, 2022). In his interactive video work “Thought Experiment” from 2021 he speculates the shift from organic evolutionary processes to electronic evolutionary processes, where  cybernetic organisms, partly made of organic structures and part electronic components respond to their environment in a variety of ways at an ever-increasing speed. (Zagmani, 2021) Because the plant organisms react to changes in the environment with their comprehensive intelligence and can develop and adapt incredibly quickly, they maintain the ecological balance of the future. The question remains open as to whether humans can still actively intervene, or whether they must subordinate themselves to the plant world.
Yunchul Kims work Gyre, which can be seen in this years Biennale in Venice, is a site-specific drawing which illustrates the ‘world as a labyrinth’ where matter, time, objects and beings interact and co-exist. (Myers, 2022) Kim perceives us at the “swollen” boundaries of complex political, cultural, social, and existential entanglements which he understands as  a shadow of the anthropocentric condition of the world, meaning that the human impact on the world is irreversible and he finds himself at the center of creation. At the periphery of these tensions is the world viewed through the lens of materials, where objects, beings, and nature all co-exist on an equal footing.” (e-flux, 2022)

Monika Bielskyte futurist researcher and founder of the protopian framework believes that science fiction has contributed massively to the fetishisation of a tech-controlled future that we are heading towards. It has made us believe that the future we should be thriving towards should be highly automated, led by technological advancements and by enhancing our limits of productivity through revolutionising the human body through mechanic or digital extensions. She states that these developments hold the threats of exploiting the resources of our planet and to create a world of social separation. For Bielskyte the capitalist model is based on the idea of infinite growth on a finite planet. She envisions a move past linear economies towards circular ways of being. (Bielskyte, 2022)
Founded in 2019 the central hope of the Protopia-collective is to facilitate a platform for creating glimpses into “radically hopeful futures, and to open up conversations and explorations about what it takes to get there. With all that we do, we want to challenge the alienating dystopian/utopian SciFi stereotypes, and to inspire, and be inspired by, what truly inclusive futures could be.” (Protopia, 2022) It acts as a collaborative cultural framework where there is no singular “future” trajectory but rather a vast scope of many alternative futures which are “continuously shaped not just by our actions but also by our inactions and our apathy” (Protopia, 2022). Our understanding of human community and our complex interdependence with all life on earth has been distorted by the narratives of “colonizing progress and individualism and have blocked us from more expansive scientific inquiries and innovative discoveries” (Heinrich in Protopia, 2022).
The constitutive interaction between our bodies and nature should be restored, while a deprivatisation of everyday life can break isolation and caring for others can become a creative task rather than a burden. (Federici, 2019) “Protopia” solidifies the quest for a future that is inclusive and liveable for all – as any Utopia designed for the few can become a Dystopia for the many. (Bielskyte, 2022)






List of


Arebyte (2022) FuturesPast. Available at: (Accessed: 27.10.22)

Art Basel (2019) Artist Talk | Conduits, Circuits, and Screens: Tishan Hsu and the Institutional Body. Available at: (Accessed: 11.11.22)

Asendorf (2021) A Follow-Up Study of Boys With Gender Identity Disorder. Available at:  (Accessed: 20.01.2022)

Bielskyte, M. (2021) Protopian Futures (Framework). Available at: (Accessed: 24.05.22)

Campos, G. (2022) Refik Anadol launches metaverse project with AV partners. Available at: (Accessed: 26.01.2022)

Chomsky, N. (2016) Noam Chomsky – Jung & Naiv: Folge 284 (mit deutschen Untertiteln). Available at: (Accessed: 17.02.2022)

Cohen, D. (n.a.) Estrangement. Available at: (Accessed: 12.11.22)

Cook, J et al. (2017) Our Exponential Selves: Identity in the Digital Romantic Age. Available at: (Accessed: 20.01.2022)

Donahue, M. (2017) How a Color-Blind Artist Became the World’s First Cyborg. Available at: (Accessed: 23.05.22)

Duke, C. (2021) Indestructible ‘Black Box’ will record our planet’s demise in minute detail. Available at: (Accessed: 21.01.2022)

E-flux (2022) Yunchul Kim: Gyre. Available at: (Accessed: 11.11.22)

Federici, S. (2018) Re-enchanting the World Feminism and the Politics of the Commons. (Kairos)

Gordon, L. (2021) Niall Ashley Explores The Black Experience In Vivid Colour. Available at: (Accessed: 12.11.22)

Grunwald, A. (2022) acatech am Dienstag: Wer sind wir? – Vom Wandel der Technik und der Zukunft des Menschen, zoom event. Available at: recording available at:

Haddadin, S. (2022) acatech am Dienstag: Wer sind wir? – Vom Wandel der Technik und der Zukunft des Menschen, zoom event. Available at: recording available at:

Jeffery, S. (2013) Thesis Review Part One: Assemblages and Rhizomes. Available at: (Accessed: 20.01.22)

Jurgenson, N. (2011) Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality.Available at: (Accessed: 17.01.2022)

Kadel Willborn (n.a.) Vivian Greven. Available at: (Accessed: 21.05.22)

Lambo, A. (2022) Jacolby Satterwhite on Seeking Utopia in ‘Pygmalion’s Ugly Season’. Available at: (Accessed: 06.11.22)

Miguel Abreu Gallery (n.a.) Tishan Hsu. Available at: (Accessed: 11.11.22)

Mitscherlich, O. (2022) acatech am Dienstag: Wer sind wir? – Vom Wandel der Technik und der Zukunft des Menschen, zoom event. Available at: recording available at:

Myers, L. (2022) Yunchul kim’s serpentine sculpture pulsates and breathes inside the korean pavilion in venice. Available at: installation is composed of,implosion would create new worlds. (Accessed: 11.11.22)

Nowness (2020) The new Olafur Eliasson AR project you can experience at home. Available at: (Accessed: 25 Jan 2022)

Olsen, K. (2021) Sevdaliza: The great hope design. Available at: (Accessed: 05.01.22)

Plant, S. (1997) Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. HarperCollins Publishers.

Prendes, A (2022) Sougwen Chung, becoming entangled with machines. Available at: (Accessed: 10.11.22)

Protopia (2022) Protopian Futures [Framework]. Available at: (Accessed: 24.05.22)

Quarles, C. (n.a.) About. Available at: (Accessed: 21.05.22)

RAS (2022) Dataland. Available at: (Accessed: 26 Jan 2022)

RCA (n.a.) Dor Cohen. Available at: (Accessed: 12.11.22)

Russell, L. (2020) Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto. Verso Books.

Sender, P. (2022) Creative Heads: Pascal Sender. Available at: (Accessed: 12.11.22)

Serpentine Galleries (2019) Bubble Vision. Available at: (Accessed: 07.11.22)

Smith, R. (2020) Pascal Sender. Available at: (Accessed: 08.11.22)

Stelarc (2016) Transhuman Artist Stelarc I The Feed. Available at: (Accessed: 23.05.22)

Zagmani, M. (2021) Thought Experiment. Available at:  (Accessed: 28.10.22)

Zwiezen, Z. (2022) Facebook’s Metaverse Is Apparently Filled With Mostly Empty ‘Sad’ Worlds. Available at: (Accessed: 20.11.22)

By creating new images and dreaming of new futures, we enable the further development and realisation of these visions. Making them visible opens up an opportunity to discuss, reflect and share them in order to aim for their realisation at some point in time. That is why I think it is important to strive to create novel visual stimuli, be it as a critique of current developments, as a sketch of a new way of living together, or as a link between those parallel ways of existing today.
That is why the notion of the in-between, that surfaces as a dynamic equilibrium between the figure and its abstraction, is so central to my work. I create environments in which the the body becomes limitless and material of experimentation, in which there are no natural limits and no natural dynamics just the in-between of our contemporary existence. I therefore engage with the interconnections of digital and analogue processes, digital modelling applied in AR and traditional oil painting on canvas. I examine the new states the body can assume in these mixed environments and imagine otherworldly spaces of bendable time and transformable space that can be tuned and adjusted or in which the body is tuned, adjusted and consumed.



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