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Visit People's Park Plinth

Wed - Fri 10am - 7pm
Sat and Sun 12pm - 7pm

Monsters of the Machine: Frankenstein in the 21st Century

18/11/2016 – 21/05/2017

Wed - Fri 10am - 7pm
Sat and Sun 12pm - 7pm


Participating artists: [AOS] Art is Open Source, Cristina Busto, Equipo Sauti ya wakulima, Mary Flanagan, Carla Gannis, Genetic Moo, Fernando Gutiérrez, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Shu Lea Cheang, Gretta Louw & Warnayaka Art Centre, Regina de Miguel, Joana Moll & Cédric Parizot, Guido Segni, Karolina Sobecka, Alan Sondheim, Thomson & Craighead.

Monsters of the Machine is a contemporary take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and asks us to reconsider her warning that scientific imagining and all technologies have unintended and dramatic consequences for the world. It also invites us to ask the same about the arts and human imagination. Shelley’s classic, gothic horror and science fiction novel has inspired millions since it was written 200 years ago in 1816 and then published anonymously in London in 1818. It offers a lens through which to look at the practices of arts and sciences today and how they shape society’s relationship with technology.

Dr Frankenstein plays the role of the Promethean scientist, a creative genius, and also a narcissist tangled up in his own individual desires, exploiting others in an irresponsible and abusive drive to control nature. However, who is the real monster? Dr Frankenstein or the poor wretched mutant he brought to life? Are we Dr Frankenstein, the suffering mutant, or both? This question posed by the exhibition considers the roles of our arts and science traditions and examines these issues as part of everyday life; as they are played out in the Anthropocene, and climate change, gender politics, ethics, governance, surveillance, posthumanism, transhumanism, hacking, biohacking, colonialism, neoliberalism, biopolitics and accelerationism.

In this exhibition, visitors can experience artworks in which the human genome is used as the basis for a poetry machine for a self-assembling video montage spanning thirteen years – a memorial work and an algorithmic visualisation for a historic scientific landmark. 3d printed avatars representing distorted bodies in pain, about virtual worlds where there’s no geography, and the result is the crack/wound, everywhere and nowhere. Visitors participate in a software-driven installation, a performative social neuroscience experiment, to discover our shared psychological biases. A surreal video installation shows us a dystopian blend of ‘reality’ out in the remote Australian desert with traditional ghost stories and Dreamtime stories mixed with science fiction. The Sahara Desert is remapped by a custom bot in an algorithmically scripted performance, traversing the data-scape of Google Maps and filling a Tumblr blog and its data centres. Artists take our bio-matter and the inconceivable quantities of data we generate in our daily lives as materials with an inherent recombinant intelligence and the power to generate (without the intervention of human will) the narratives of human destiny and more. Do we inhabit our own bodies anymore, or do we share our body materials for others to measure, reshape and construct, data-scrape and manage remotely? Arthur Kroker in Body Drift: Butler, Hayles, and Haraway say that “we no longer inhabit a body in any meaningful sense of the term but rather occupy a multiplicity of bodies – imaginary, sexualized, disciplined, gendered, labouring technologically augmented bodies.” [2]

Artists and scientists work with the same tools, frameworks and archetypes. There are crossovers. Unsurprisingly, we find the boundaries of imaginative fantasy and objective reality breaking down. Take, for instance, the jellyfish invasions around nuclear reactors in Japan, Israel, Sweden, and the Scottish plant in Torness. The natural world is writing its own science fiction into a new reality with vivid images and outlandish outcomes. Right now, the classic techno-utopian dream of computers liberating us all and providing the tools that will underpin global democratisation seems a long way off and even somewhat sterile. Since the news stories broke of mass surveillance of Internet users by NSA and Prism, we’ve experienced new formulations of mutual surveillance and manipulation daily. So now we stand at a precipice; what choice do we have but to jump into this sea of dysfunctional dystopias, and directly observe for ourselves, what we have become and what we will be, the Monsters of the Machine?


[1] Body Drift: Butler, Hayles, Haraway (Posthumanities). Author Arthur Kroker. University of Minnesota Press (22 Oct. 2012).

[2] Body Drift: Butler, Hayles and Haraway. Review by Marc Garrett 15/08/2015.

The exhibition draws upon ideas originally written in an essay. Prometheus 2.0: Frankenstein Conquers the World! Marc Garrett.

Curated by: Marc Garrett, co-founder of

Graphic Design: Carmen Vázquez

With the support of: