A one-off evening programme at the Wellcome Collection will explore the notion of the cyborg and the boundaries between humans and technology, as well as the boundaries between races, genders and classes.
The event, kicking off Friday 15 March at 7pm, will feature a range of talks and performances focusing on the relationship between people and technology today, as well as speculating on visions for the future.
A virtual reality experience called NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism places the visitor in a 'neurocosmetology lab' where 'black women are pioneering techniques of brain optimisation and cognitive enhancement', created by Hyphen-Labs, an international collective of women of colour whose work focuses on the intersection of technology, art, science, and the future. The creators will be giving a talk at 7pm where they will talk about speculative product design, emerging tech, cognitive research, and transhumanism.
Pictured above is Rebekah Ubuntu, who will be performing twice in the evening and whose work explores "unbecoming, questing and intersectional utopianism" through "the speculative gaze of an artificially intelligent cyborg".
Also, writer, lecturer, artist and curator Joanna Zylinska will discuss why the notion of the cyborg is returning today, amid uncertainty and trepidation about technology's wider societal impact, environmental crisis, and research into immortality.
"This programme explores the idea of the cyborg," events officer at Wellcome Collection, Emily Wiles, tells Techworld. "The cyborg is part machine, part animal, and part human, and it was this idea which was originally conceived in the 1950s in cybernetics. It resurfaced in the 1980s, and was popularised by science fiction films and also re-conceived by critical feminists."
It is being revisited in this moment of ecological crisis, adds Wiles, as well as while there is an increasing focus on what it means to be human. And we are also being made to more closely examine the boundaries between person and machine, as technology increasingly becomes enmeshed in our personal lives, homes, cities, and politics.
"I think in a sense the cyborg is already present in today's world and you can see some of that in some of the programme," says Wiles. "Dani Clode, who is working in plasticity research, created a Third Thumb prosthesis and is working with neuroscientists to understand how our brains will adapt to using that. That is a reflection of, or can be understood as, an extension of how we use tools already."
Reading groups in the Reading Room will be open for anyone to discuss the writings of Donna Haraway, Samuel R Delany, Will Harris, Ursula K Le Guin, and Octavia Butler.
"It is really important to mention Octavia E Butler's work because she was writing before Donna Haraway and I think her work is sometimes overlooked," says Wiles.
Cyborgs is part of a series of late events at the Wellcome Collection where work from researchers and artists can be experienced within the building, along with a late opening of the gallery and cocktails. The full programme is available here.