Imagine it's 1980! Electronic devices, especially computers and artificial intelligence have recently made a huge revolution in industry and technology. They are rapidly becoming prevalent, and huge changes are happening in human being lives consequently. Typewriters are being replaced by computers, file folders by hard disks, and the workforce by robots. This series of events and structural changes which then seemed like what had been predicted in science-fiction novels about the future, is now happening!
The remarkable works of American artist Tishan Hsu, often created at the same time in the 1980s and 1990s, embody the artist's vision of the not-too-distant future like a science-fiction novel, in which technology and artificial intelligence are so prevailing that seem inseparable from civilization, life, and human identity! A future in which artificial intelligence has become so strong in competition with human intelligence that surpasses it! The Hsu's works are about a world in which thinking, learning, and decision-making are not limited to a creature with the human figure; a creature with flesh, blood, hands, feet, head, eyes, and mouth. This is the future in which creatures made of silicon and metal with wires, boards, screens, cameras, and sensors, think, learn, and of course, make decisions!
In his work, Tishan Hsu deals specifically with two inevitable phenomena in such a future: humanoid robots and human beings with organic, mechanical, and electronic body parts (cyborgs). But his works do not present an imaginary image of cyborgs and humanoid robots and also do not predict the external appearance of the two phenomena as Hollywood do. In fact, the Hsu's works are not a window to an imaginary world in which the audience can see the image of phenomena such as cyborgs; rather, his works are an embodiment of how he imagines the future! As in a work entitled "Outer Banks of Memory", the artist embodies the nature of a cyborg memory; in a way that the artwork is something like a hatch made of both organic and mechanical components. The artist in artworks such as "Portrait" and "R.A.M" embodies the imagination of how the skin and organic parts of the body are combined with artificial components as well. With such works, Hsu shows us how the former meaning of skin, body, mind, and thinking fades in the future when technology has penetrated our organs and limbs and has been mixed with them; in other words, how this famous phrase "the eye is a window to the soul and mind" will be challenged!
- Tishan Hsu: Liquid Circuit, installation view, SculptureCenter, New York, 2020. Photo: Kyle Knodell