The Empathics: Saya Woolfalk
September 6, 2019-January 11, 2020
Opening Reception: September 6, 6-10pm
Saya Woolfalk is a pioneer within an emergent, international aesthetic movement examining transhumanism—a theoretical belief that humans will mobilize technology to transcend their biological limitations and evolve into a non-human, or “posthuman” race. Her exhibition at Tube Factory artspace will explore these concepts via sculpture, installation prints, video works of her own and other artists that influence present and future works.
Human culture is based on our understanding of the human condition, a state of affairs governed by seemingly unavoidable conflicts such as birth, growth, and death. Technology has allowed us to assuage our suffering by making birth less painful and growth more enjoyable. Perhaps the ultimate human technological advancement would be the elimination of mortality by extending human life indefinitely in either a biological, digital, or otherwise virtual state. Recent technological advances suggest our species may already be on the cusp of achieving this evolutionary landmark.
To explore the conceptual boundaries of this cultural moment, Woolfalk created a fictional transhuman species known as the Empathics, which she describes as a “race of women who are able to alter their genetic make-up and fuse with plants.” Through their quasi-corporate entity ChimaTEK, which operates a techno-metaphysical system called the ChimaCloud, the Empathics offer their customers “transformative products” that tender the promise of transhuman potential.
Woolfalk’s Tube Factory installation will extend the story of the Empathics, blending multi-media aesthetic phenomena, spirituality, cultural hybridization, capitalism, technoscience, and artificial intelligence to conjure a broad network of interconnecting philosophical strands. Informed equally by science fiction and anthropological fact, the morally ambiguous future it projects is completely open to the subjective interpretation of viewers.
Should we fear the world Woolfalk and other transhumanist artists are mapping? Should we embrace it? Should we shrug it off as a Pollyannic fantasy, doomed by the human idiot factor?
Woolfalk seems to be implying a potentially disturbing fourth option: that some of us, particularly those with special status or outlandish means, have already started to transform. Is this art, or a warning shot across the cultural bow of the common human race?
About Saya Woolfalk
Saya Woolfalk (Japan, 1979) is a New York based artist who uses science fiction and fantasy to re-imagine the world in multiple dimensions. With the multi year projects No Place, The Empathics, and ChimaTEK, Woolfalk has created the world of the Empathics, a fictional race of women who are able to alter their genetic make-up and fuse with plants. With each body of work, Woolfalk continues to build the narrative of these women's lives, and questions the utopian possibilities of cultural hybridity.
She has exhibited at museums, galleries, and alternative spaces throughout Asia, Europe and the United States including solo exhibitions at the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ (2012); the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (2014); the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (2014); SCAD Museum, Savannah, GA (2016); Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY (2016); Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE (2016); the Mead Museum of Art, Amherst, MA (2017) and group shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem; MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY; the Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA., the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among many others.
Works by the artist are in the collections of major institutions including, among others, the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Mead Art Museum, the Weatherspoon Art Museum; the Newark Museum; the Chrysler Museum of Art; and the Seattle Art Museum where her major multi-media installation, commissioned and acquired by the Museum, is on extended view. Solo exhibitions of works by Saya Woolfalk are also currently on view at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO (through September 1, 2019) and the Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI (through August 18, 2019).
Woolfalk is the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and commissions. She has delivered numerous public lectures at museums and universities throughout the United States including a recent TED X Talk. She is represented by Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York and teaches in MFA program at Yale School of Art as well as in the BFA and MFA programs at Parsons: The New School for Design.