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Human intelligence
differentiates humans from the rest of any biological intelligent life on Earth.
Our self-consciousness
separates us from machines; we have the awareness to act within the moment and
change decisions when we want to. We form memories, have feelings, the ability
to ask and answer questions, learn from mistakes and can lose control over our minds and bodies. We are still at the very
birth of artificial Intelligence but within the past recent years it has
gathered pace and progressed. We all have Siri on our iPhones now and Amazon’s
Alexa seems to be advertised on almost every televised commercial break, these
are designed to personally assist us in our day-to-day lives – these are a form
of basic artificial intelligence, although it is a long way off from the artificial
intelligence of replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), the ideal goal for AI technology – a mechanical
mind that can act, learn, survive and understand human emotion and respond with
empathy. Perhaps Science Fiction has giving us an unrealistic aim for the


Wayne McGregor is a multi award-winning choreographer
of contemporary modern dance, bringing together dance with other art to create
immersive installations and performances. +/-
Human is an exploration into the relationship between humans and machines. This
is something that has fascinated McGregor and been apparent in his work for
years. Audience (2008) combined
tracking software with mirrors to follow the dances. He also created a choreographed
dance for Random International’s Rain
Room (2012), where people can enter the installation and walk around the
dancers and remain bone dry, creating a hypnotic but isolating experience of paradise. 

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McGregor again teams up with Random International, who
are a collaborative contemporary art
studio specialising in post-digital age technology. +/- Human is a look into the future, where mankind and machines
consciously react and work together. It is Science Fiction come to life.


+/- Human involves seven large orbs that float
in the air. Attached to the centre of each one are tiny propellers that sharply
change direction keeping the orbs stable. The audience is let into the space
directly below, only a small number at a time, whilst the rest watch from
behind a single robe around the outside waiting to enter. The orbs are inviting
to be touched, hovering just above the audiences’ heads. They have an uncanny
resemblance to René
Magritte’s white alien-like spheres from La
Voix des Airs (1931) as they slowly circle together, as one, as if they are dancing for the viewers below. Programed to think
individually they appear self-conscious and even occasionally showing
human-like error by bumping into each other. They are an embodiment of artificial intelligence, reacting
together in the moment.


The dancers are made up of part Royal
Ballet and part McGregor’s own company. The dancers are half naked showing as
much skin as possible but still making it ‘child friendly’. They embody early human
life with animalistic, raw and charged emotion. There is an elegance to the
chaos between the dancers, who are at times in groups and then alone, moving in
tandem with the hovering spheres above. The orbs are programed to react and
mimic the dancers. A dancer will drop to the fall, with the orbs instantly responding
by floating down towards the dancer, the dancer will then leap up and the orb
will shoot off towards the ceiling. There’s a poetic harmony intertwined. They
are not in a violent clash with one another. This is not humans against
artificial intelligence. This is about the beauty of science and the
collaborative nature between art and technology. They are in a dance with one
another. After all, dance may well be the oldest form of art, and as Science
Fiction likes to remind us, AI is the future of human advancement.


+/- Human is very much site
specific, created in response to The Roundhouse, who commissioned the
installation. The high ceiling and the circular walls make it the perfect
environment to feel inadequate and small underneath the giant spheres. The
space is dark around the outside with lighting only in the centre circle to
illuminate the orbs. They are presented as elegant objects, God-like in their
presence. This is matched with Mark Pritchard’s electronic music to heighten
the atmospheric ambiance – a gentle, repetitive droning creating an
otherworldly or dream-like place. There is never any feeling of threat, only a
sense of relaxation, comfort, and transcendence – a nirvana for us humans.


McGregor, along with Random
International have created a paradise where the future and the past inhabit in
harmony. An exploration into human advancement, from the birth of art to the
future where artificial intelligence can create art of its own and where humans
and machines collaborate side by side. McGregor presents a human narrative of
great change as the world begins to form and adopt AI technology as a norm. There
is a romantic and melancholic longing for understanding, a search for the next
human advancements. It is ahead of its time. It is a parade of modern
scientific achievements. Wayne McGregor and Random International have proved
that replicants might not be as far off as the world might think, and that we
should not fear the idea of a machine that is in everyway more advanced than
humankind, but look to collaborate and achieve together, no matter how small
and inferior we might appear to be in relation to our evolved humanoids. 

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