Our species exist on earth for about 300,000 years. Not much changed for most of this time. Agrarian societies started only about 12,000 years ago, first cities were formed about 6,000 years past. Through those millennia life remained pretty much the same, the distances, small by today’s standards, were insurmountable. Most people had no idea what was the place on the other side of the mountain, let alone where the next country or empire started and which they might have been a part of. Between 100 BC and AD 150 the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty each comprised up to 30 percent of the world’s population, yet they barely knew of each other.
Putting this another way: from 10,000 BC onwards, it took many hundreds of years for the world economy to double in size. The most recent doubling took just nineteen years. And it’s not just that rates of economic growth are historically unusual; the same is true for rates of energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, land use change, scientific advancement, and arguably moral change, too.
Over a meager 250 years of our existence the world changed at ever increasing speed and velocity. In just little over the last century we progressed from horse and buggy, steam engine and Wright Flyer to space travel, communicating effortlessly in seconds with someone on the other side of the world, travelling to any part of it in hours, and being fully capable to annihilate it with a nuclear blast. With the notable enthusiasm that characterized the aggressive vision of the century’s acceleration the founder of Italian Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, wrote in his 1910 manifesto: “…the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath – a roaring car that seems to run on grapeshot is more beautiful than The Victory of Samothrace.”
And so human endeavor progressed, through spectacular inventions that sped both progress and distraction. That included scientific and engineering breakthroughs, from penicillin to microchips, from E = mc2 to two most devastating wars in human history.
And here we are. As we have for many thousands of years we work, laugh, play, worry, pray, hope and imagine. But we reached a moment that is very precarious. To some extent the ‘break-necking’ progress has stalled. The bonanza decades of technological explosion and promise has slowed if not fizzled with all the global tech companies firing thousands of workers and scaling down projections. Our naïve confidence that the violent conflict will stay at a safe distance and not affect our comfortable western, democratic lives has been shattered. The brutal Russian aggression of Ukraine has ended what we thought was a assured safety of our generation’s privilege of not experiencing what the generation of our parents and grandparents have experienced.
One can argue, the silver lining of all that is that we have been shaken out of a slumber. We, perhaps, became a bit more aware of our limitations, mistakes and false hopes. We came face to face with grief, loss, anger, love, empathy as well as the need to take action and extend our heart.
The Human Condition show aims to address this. It uses simple, iconic silhouettes of human figure in various emotional or physical states through gestures, movements and poses. They are designed to be immediate and quick to understand and acquire. Being figurative their positions are narrative. Some are references to human inventions, like Corbusier’s Modulor, or Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man.
Aside from the opaque black figures, all pieces use only three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. The colors have philosophical and emotional function. In western culture we commonly assign meaning to those colors — black as dark, heavy, serious, stark; red as warning, alert, blood, sex; yellow as sunny, holly, cheerful; blue as calm, heavenly, introspective, dreamy. However, depending on cultures and traditions those vary considerably. For example, in Buddhist theology black signifies earth, red wisdom, yellow equanimity, blue power.
The figures and their positions may also have multiple interpretations. The laying figure may be seen as a dead body or a person dreaming. The hunched figure may be in anguish, or praying, or self-protecting.
Some of the pieces in the show also include language. The texts are mostly excerpts from writings of 10th-12th century Sufi poets and philosophers of Persia, such as Rumi, Hafez, Saadi, Ferdausi who wrote on human states and condition. Using those ancient poetic texts extends the value of the consideration of the Human Condition through the centuries of our endeavor. Some texts are also parts of the current news headlines.
The series dives into the profound sadness, agony, joy and hope of human state today. It’s intended to address it through simple and direct vehicle. Although it’s based on current juncture in our existence, it is by no means definitively comprehensive and complete. It is but meant to open the door.