It shows us our new reality, which is shaped by 3-D printers and robots, cyborgs and chimeras, molecules and gene pools, wearable technologies and medical miracles, synthetic life forms, bionic suits and silicon retinas, artificial tissue and repair techniques, and new discoveries in space research, molecular biology, neurology, genetics, and quantum information science. It shows us visions and solutions for twentieth-century problems, such as separating oxygen out of CO2 to combat the climate crisis.
When humans began walking upright, feet turned into hands. Human beings used their hands to create works. These works included tools. Walking upright set human hands free to be used as tools, making human beings themselves “the first of the creation left [sic] free” (J. G. Herder, Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man, 1803).
From manual to mental tools, from the hammer to language, over the course of thousands of years human beings have created a culture of tools, an engineering culture that has expanded the boundaries of perception and of the world. The human being has outsourced his bodily functions: the hand to the hammer, the foot to the wheel, the arms to the bow and arrow, the spoken word to the written word, memory to clay tablets and computers, etc. Through the chain of rendering things exterior, the human being transcends evolution. He liberates himself from the violence of nature; he creates an artificial exo-evolution through his tools and through organs made exterior. From exo-biology to exo-planets, from exo-skeletons to »exo-pregnancy«, the contours of a new world deeply marked by technology are taking shape. In the early twenty-first century, art also can no longer stand apart from this technological development.
Traditionally art was focused on representing that which the human eye naturally perceived. When rendering the world of objects visible, painters were trapped in retinal effects and limited to the surface of things. From the microscope to computed tomography, technologies of perception have developed in science. Objects unrecognizable to the naked eye have been artificially made visible. New media bring the technologies of artificial perception, from photography to the computer, into the realm of art. This creates a new awareness of the interconnection of natural and artificial perception, of the object world and the media world, and of art and science. Media are not, however, merely image and sound machines; they are also interfaces in the construction of new realities and new forms of communication. We communicate, negotiate and act through media. The transformation from visual to social media makes clear that the use of media is a vital factor. Media are performative. Their impact is ubiquitous and long-lasting. That is why we speak not only of pictures, but rather of picture acts (Bildakten), not only of language, but of language acts, not only of perception but of acts of perception. Actions have become art forms. Now that a certain amount of overlap exists between the tools of artists and those of scientists, artists’ studios sometimes resemble scientific laboratories and vice versa. Artists today are less in search of subjective expression. Rather, their frames of reference are social systems and scientific structures and methods. This is the reason for new research areas such as art and science labs and art-based research. Scientization of art is beginning to emerge as it did during the Renaissance, creating a sort of Renaissance 2.0.