An exhibition exploring ideas about immortality in an age of scientific miracles.
New work by Judith Alder with Fleur Alston, Murray Ballard, Rachel Cohen, Cat Ingrams, Anna Macdonald, Guyan Porter, Duncan Poulton, Gabriella Sancisi and Angela Smith.
In an age when scientists can create, manipulate and sustain life to an extent once unimaginable, The New Immortals explores our ongoing quest for immortality and offers ten artists’ responses to this new paradigm.
From the dawn of human consciousness, we have invented stories to distract ourselves from the fact of our mortality. Philosopher Stephen Cave theorises that in the current day such tales of immortality have shifted from myth, magic and religion to a modern form of faith which is invested in science, medicine and technology.
We are constantly confronted by an avalanche of media reports announcing so-called ground-breaking and miraculous developments in science and technology. Life expectancy continues to rise and we are told that we are in the midst of a longevity revolution. Leading bio-ethicist, Professor John Harris says in his essay, Intimations of Immortality, “It is unlikely that we can stop the progression to increased life-spans and even “immortality,” and it is doubtful that we can produce coherent ethical objections. We should start thinking now about how we can live decently and creatively with the prospect of such lives.”
It is against this backdrop that artist/curator Judith Alder has undertaken a period of research extending over two years, during which she has been talking to scientists, medics, philosophers, ethicists, artists and the wider public to explore ideas around immortality, and to begin to consider what advances in biomedical science and technology might mean for us as humans. She asks, ‘Could indefinite human life become a reality? Would we really want to live forever? and What difference would it make if we never died?’
In The New Immortals exhibition, Alder brings together a group of artists who offer their own perspectives on these questions. The work ranges from Murray Ballard’s photographic journeys exploring cryonics to Gabriella Sancisi’s video portrait of a newborn, to Alder’s piece in which a traditional hymn turns into a song of praise for science and technology. Duncan Poulton creates a virtual world from appropriated materials that hints at a different kind of immortality, while Fleur Alston creates photographic mandalas celebrating the lichen, an organism distinguished by its longevity. An installation by Cat Ingrams and etchings by Angela Smith highlight the confusing array of scientific and pseudo-scientific information that bombards us, and musings on hope, faith and belief are presented within work by Anna Macdonald, Rachel Cohen and Guyan Porter.
Each artist grapples with the subject at hand, only to reveal further, even more perplexing levels of uncertainty. Placed within a semi-narrative framework conceived by Alder and created in collaboration with the artists, the exhibits draw gallery visitors through a series of interconnected spaces in which mortality is confronted, belief is questioned, and the elusive elixir of life continues to baffle and inspire in equal measure.