Dr Phaedra Shanbaum
I will discuss my upcoming project on temporary implants and the human body. Temporary implants are technological devices that are placed in a human body, for a period of time, in order to support, mediate or enhance pre-existing biological structures. My aim in looking at implants is to explore what the terms “deficient”, “normal” and “enhanced” mean in relation to the human body and to critically challenge cultural assumptions around the body that these terms, and technologies, promote. In doing this, my goal is to reveal contradictions within traditional theories of the body and its relationship to technology, linking my research to a certain type of philosophical post-humanist critique: one that complicates, and attempts to think beyond, humanist frameworks of the body and technology, widening our definition of what it means to be human in the 21st Century. I explore temporary implants from three perspectives: temporary implants as forms of public engagement; objects of creative exploration; and socio-political modes of critique. I ask the following questions: How do temporary implants change or challenge our current concept of the human? Is this challenge or change an issue of power and control? A question of the standardization and normalization of certain types of bodies, embodiments and technologies? Does each individual implant promote a different type of body or challenge our notions of the human in a different way?
My research is interdisciplinary. It draws on media and cultural theory, art history and computer science. It links theory to contemporary digital arts practices, exploring questions surrounding the ever-changing relationship between the human body and technology. I look at various iterations of interfaces (remote controls; joysticks; human bodies; temporary implants) and their use in digital media installations raising questions around what it means to be human in the 21st Century.
In addition to my research, I am a digital arts curator. I have over eleven years of curatorial experience, working at commercial and non-profit galleries, festivals and museums in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. My curatorial work examines the relationship between aesthetics and new technologies - specifically how this relationship is staged from within a museum setting as well as the role the curator plays within the larger context of creative industries and academia. It also explores links between creativity, consumers and computers, how they feedback on each other and the role the museum and gallery as an institution play in this relationship.