Future Bodies from a Recent Past—Sculpture, Technology, and the Body since the 1950s
The exhibition brings to life a hitherto little-noticed phenomenon in art, and more particularly in sculpture: the reciprocal interpenetration of body and technology. With more than 100 works and several large-scale installations by about 60 artists—primarily from Europe, the United States, and Japan—the exhibition focuses on the major technological changes since World War II and their influence on our ideas of the body.
ca. 90 minutes
Patrizia Dander with Franziska Linhardt
About the exhibition
Contemporary art is characterized by an examination of the relationship between the body and technology. Many artworks from recent years reflect how we experience ourselves and our environments in the highly technological and networked present. Yet this relationship can be traced far back into the 20th century. The post-war period was marked by rapid technological change, which has become the pinnacle of ideological instrumentalization. It satisfied the need for novelty as much as the need to overcome the traumas of war. At the same time, technology became a crystallization point for global threats and fears of change, or even loss of control. Within this broad spectrum, ranging from euphoria about the future to critical distancing, sculpture also engaged with new technologies. These served equally as means of emancipation as surveillance and (external) control, and profoundly influenced our understanding of bodies.
Across two floors of the museum, “Future Bodies from a Recent Past” presents for the first time a structured frame of reference for this narrative, ranging from the post-war period to the present. Throughout, it becomes clear that sculpture is particularly well suited to picking up and reflecting on these changes—not only because sculptures are physical objects in space and therefore provide a possibility for projecting our own corporeality, but also because they share their materials and production methods with the world that surrounds us. This permeability to outside influences is also evident in the works included here. The exhibition charts a journey through forms and modes of expression in sculpture, which have changed more in the last 70 years than probably ever before in its long history.
How has the relationship between humans and technology shifted since the 1950s? Can the boundaries still be clearly drawn? Where do our digital extensions, such as computers or cell phones, begin and end? What does this mean for our ideas of corporeality and materiality? And what are the social implications of these developments for our (collective) self-understanding? With these questions in mind, we invite you on a tour of the exhibition.
Genpei Akasegawa, Paweł Althamer, Nairy Baghramian, Joachim Bandau, Matthew Barney, Alexandra Bircken, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Breer, John Chamberlain, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Shu Lea Cheang, Jesse Darling, Stephanie Dinkins, Aleksandra Domanović, Melvin Edwards, Bruno Gironcoli, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Nancy Grossman, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Eva Hesse, Judith Hopf, Rebecca Horn, Tishan Hsu, Edward Ihnatowicz, Arthur Jafa, Motoharu Jōnouchi, KAYA, Kiki Kogelnik, Shigeko Kubota, Tetsumi Kudō, Yayoi Kusama, Nicola L., Mark Leckey, Sarah Lucas, Bruce Nauman, Senga Nengudi, Kiyoji Ōtsuji, Tony Oursler, Nam June Paik, Eduardo Paolozzi, Friederike Pezold, Julia Phillips, Walter Pichler, Seth Price, Carol Rama, Germaine Richier, Niki de Saint Phalle, Hans Salentin, Ashley Hans Scheirl, David Smith, Alina Szapocznikow, Takis, Atsuko Tanaka, Paul Thek, Jean Tinguely, Hannsjörg Voth, Franz West
The exhibition “Future Bodies from a Recent Past” is situated in the charged and conflicted field of technological developments. How have they shaped us and our everyday lives? What hopes and concerns were and still are associated with them in their respective present forms? And have these been fulfilled? The timeline “Views into the Future from the Recent Past” offers a foray into key social events, technological innovations, and changing notions of the body over the past decades.
Views into the Future from the Recent Past
In preparation for the exhibition, a three-day online symposium was held in January 2021. Leading theorists from various disciplines outlined a multi-perspective history of sculpture since the 1950s. Recordings of all contributions and more information about the symposium can be found here.