One of Them Is a Human
di Maija Tammi
When we look at One of Them Is Human we stare the future in the face.
And it’s a future which is with us now. This is why these four photographic portraits of three androids and one possible human are so unsettling. They make us face the idea that maybe humanity is on the verge of extinction. We are forced to look squarely at the posthuman predicament that we are replaceable by technology. After all the portrait series shows us this: a technological entity has entered into the human domain of life portraiture – and has even won international prizes for being the subject of it (the world’s largest photographic portrait prize competition hosted by the National Portrait Gallery in London).
One of Them Is Human turn the convention of portraiture on its head – as all great art does – by making us question ourselves and the convention itself. What can one really see if the subject is maybe not human? Does this matter? And what happens to the idea of portraiture if the subject is immortal?
Erica and her friends defy the corporeality of being human. They are not daughters or sons of any species which have been biologically created. They are instead timeless-forever-synthetic beings – except for maybe one of them. Their very existence shatters the linearity of time, whilst simultaneously they evoke kinship by their uncanny physical similarity to us. The android in each portrait has become the mirror of the human viewer’s own soul: the space where we project our hopes, our fears, our desires and dreams.
In a curious process of double-reverse, it is the viewer who becomes a self-composing portrait and portraitist in the very act of looking, feeling and reflecting on these portraits of the maybe-androids before us - our technological other. An intangible self-portrait is composed on the invisible canvas of our own consciousness which the android cannot reach and which is the very essence of what it is to be human. Or so we think.
Text by Ariane Koek
Creative Producer and Curator in Arts, Science and Technology
Maija Tammi (b. 1985) is a Finnish artist and Doctor of Arts, whose photographs, videos and installations examine the liminal areas of disgust and fascination, science and aesthetics. She regularly collaborates with scientists and musicians. In her practice she balances visual metaphors for the process of death, decay and immortality against each other; raising more complex issues surrounding definitions of each. Obsessively interested in the physical and abstract places where seeing approaches a limit, her past work has for example scrutinized the fear of sickness by creating sculptures from over 300 radiation therapy masks (Leftover), to photographing biologically immortal human cancer cells (White Rabbit Fever).
Tammi’s work has been exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Rome, London, New York, and Tokyo, and she has three published books Leftover/Removals (Kehrer Verlag, 2014), White Rabbit Fever (Bromide Books, 2017) and Sick Photography (Aalto Arts Books, 2017). Tammi’s background is in photojournalism. She has a Masters in visual journalism and she worked as a photojournalist for six years before her artistic career. She obtained her practice-based doctorate from Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture in 2017.