Put a pleasant face on a tool and it occupies the liminal space between animate and inanimate. It acts as both a piece of equipment and as a friendly companion, and its appearance is emblematic of a future world where we may need to like our ever smarter technology. Reaching this future will of course require the ceaseless search for rare elements and hidden resources. Extracting raw material and then refining it to attain some distillated essence is one of the hallmarks of modern science. Those pure extracts make all of the difference. A squirt of an element and you have a new circuit which could be programmed for personality. A hint of a gene can bring forth a new human hybrid.
In this series of paintings, I have created a race of tools and machines, along with a hybrid variety of attendants and operators. Together, they act as industrious players engaged in the process of boring, scraping, gouging, or grinding their way into the literal substrate of the paintings. Occupying indeterminate landscapes which could be mine-sites or playgrounds, they busily suction up some necessary material, leaving vacancies in the panels. With parts configured to resemble faces, the quasi-biological machines are workmates to the ‘human’ operators who, as the denizens of their world, have an indeterminate ethnicity and gender. The extraction of any of these beings cannot be easily elicited.
What it will mean to be human in a future of benignly intelligent machines is uncertain. Work may become leisure; or leisure may become work. One may request accompanying a busy machine just for something to do. Hybrid humans will be the norm. We will continue to hybridize with each other and will further the extraction and injection of non-human genes to correct human frailties. Machine parts will continue to augment our faculties. New typologies will come into play. Ambiguities will multiply. In their complexity, our family extractions will become uncertain. Which animal or machine lineage did that part come from? Extraction of meaning will remain difficult.