Transformations of the Human Program (ToftH) Receives Recognition for Establishing a New Field

Mashinka Firunts Hakopian

Shawna X for Noema Magazine

In its second year, the Transformations of the Human (ToftH) Program is receiving widespread public and institutional acknowledgment for developing new models for research; new possibilities for educational platforms; and a new methodological approach that bridges philosophy, art, and technology. 

In Future Art Ecosystems, a publication of the Serpentine Gallery R&D Platform, curator and Serpentine Director Hans Ulrich Obrist identifies ToftH as an exemplary site where artists “begin to devise new approaches to advanced technologies.” Obrist recognizes the program and its Founding Director, Tobias Rees, for their singular approach to “plac[ing] teams of artists and philosophers into technological and scientific settings.”

Rees was also recently named as a recipient of the Fraunhofer-Bessel Research Award for his work in the development of a new field of inquiry. Distributed by the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung Foundation, the Award is conferred upon scholars “internationally recognized for their achievements” and “who in future are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements which will have a seminal influence on their discipline beyond their immediate field of work.” 

Leah Willemin for Noema Magazine (click for full-sized image)

Rees appeared on “At a Distance,” a podcast founded by Andrew Zuckerman and Spencer Bailey, to discuss building new fields and rethinking the future of education.

Exemplifying ToftH’s post-disciplinary approach, Tobias Rees (Noema’s Art + Philosophy Editor), and program Fellows contributed to the inaugural issue of Noema, the newly launched magazine of the Berggruen Institute. Read “From The Anthropocene To The Microbiocene,” by Rees; “Afro-now-ism,” by ToftH Artist Fellow Stephanie Dinkins; “AI Must Explain Itself” by ToftH Research Fellow Nicole Rigillo; and peruse the visual essay “Theatre-de-L’Inconnu” by ToftH Artist Fellow Mara Eagle. Also in this issue, Nathan Gardels interviews ToftH Senior Fellow Yuk Hui. Finally, in “The Myth of Self” Associate Editor and ToftH Associate Director, Tui Shaub, visits the studios of ToftH Artist Fellows Anicka Yi and Agnieszka Kurant to discuss how their practice intersects with the work of ToftH. Across these texts and interviews, ToftH contributions blur the traditional field-specific boundaries between philosophy, art, and technology.

In “Making Sense of the Unknown,” a text made possible by the Rockefeller Foundation, Berggruen Institute VP of Programs, Nils Gilman and ToftH Fellow Maya Indira Ganesh discuss how metaphors shape understandings of AI in the public imaginary. 

Exploring this new field in relation to contemporary art, Rees and ToftH Artist Fellow Anicka Yi have co-curated a ToftH special feature for Artforum, to be released in a forthcoming issue of the magazine. In their recently published Artforum editorial, “The Teachings of a Virus,” Rees and Yi propose that Covid-19 presents “an invitation to rethink the human and technology in terms of the nonhuman” — a task that requires the cross-sector input of thinkers spanning “philosophers, artists, [and] engineers.”