According to Michel Foucault, human beings have historically only understood the unity of the body through its mirrored image or after it has transitioned from a living thing into a corpse. Drawing on Lacan, the former is realised when the infant first sees their reflection and conceives of a unified being rather than a ‘dispersed body of limbs, cavities and orifices’. The latter is similarly observable in the absence of a word for ‘body’ in Homer’s Greece, in which only ‘raised arms, brave chests and nimble legs’ are described. The single exception in this work is in the description of a corpse, which is afforded the unity and wholeness that we typically associate with the human form.
These ideas form the starting point for Xindi Zhou, who harnesses microscopic technology to explore the relationship between the body, technology and the self, recording her flesh in fragments in order to build a new, illusional ego.
Zi Han’s work draws on the utopian potentials of the corpse in understanding humans as part of the dynamic flow of the material world. The process of decay and deterioration is emphasized here as the transitional state in which the boundary of nature and man-made is blurred.
Zi creates an immersive environment that oscillates between a deteriorating modernist dystopia and an evolving body emerging from fragmented concrete. The single channel video Blunt Restriction Site is interweaved within this environment, in which the imagery of 18th century picturesque is juxtaposed with news reports and scientific simulations of synthetic biology. The flouring of picturesque, in which man-made structure reclaimed by nature, coincides with the rapid industrialization, whose pursuit of certainty amplified by the ambition of synthetic biologists to eliminate randomness. Destined to alter nature according to human subjectivity, their image production reveals another story, a possibility beyond predictability.