RECONSTRUCTION OF ADAM
"To create man was a quaint and original idea, but to add the sheep was tautology?"
"As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities."
If we take Darwin's theory of evolution at face value, we must first acknowledge that the processes that he described cannot yet be at their end, and that we may be as different from our future descendants as we are from our one-celled ancestors. We must then ask ourselves whether the course of evolution as we see it today has always been the only possible path. Have other options existed? Do they still?
One of the most obvious examples of this lies in the sexes. There are many organisms that have only one gender, and are able to reproduce asexually. Yet all highly organized species have developed two distinct genders, as well as various accompanying mating mechanisms and rituals.
Of course, these have fascinated humans since the beginning of time. In one of our earliest foundation myths, Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve sets up foundational questions about the two-gender system.
The Biblical text is based in much older mythology, and is an interesting subject to explore the roots of the human understanding of the sexual divide. Some Biblical scholars have long contended that a vague allusion in the first few lines of the Old Testament suggests that Adam - the first human - was created as an omni-sexed being, both woman and man. It was only when Adam petitioned God to create Eve that his nature was split in two, and humankind was thus partitioned into distinct genders.
Today, as if coming full circle, the contemporary notion of gender is losing its incontestable, absolute qualities. Scientific advancements - from artificial conception to sex-change operations and cloning - are transforming existing cultural and sexual realities from unconditional to relative. Though alchemists did not succeed in creating a Homunculus in the Middle Ages, now humanity stands on the brink of creating and replicating humans without any recourse to reproduction or gender interaction.
The Reconstruction of Adam is a project that began in the early 1990s. It is a commentary on the binary perception of the body and its social stereotypes, aimed at imagining the configuration and identity of an omni-sexual human being, modeled after the Biblical first human, Adam.
As an artist, I seek to unlock the ancient imagination, and to address the metaphorical, mythological and visual aspects of this issue from antiquity to today. This project specifically was started as a critique on gender roles and ideology, and it is becoming even more relevant in the current revolt against hetero-normativity, orthodox views of masculinity and femininity and binary gender coding. It is an attempt to make sense of these notions in our modern world, where scientific and technological advancements are in the process of making gender differences all but obsolete.
This was initially depicted through digital manipulations of Albrecht Durer's 'The Fall of Man' (Adam and Eve, 1504) with image editing software that was available at the time. Later, these images were able to be combined in a short animation. It is an attempt to understand and illustrate the supposed mechanism of the 'original' man in relation to the proverbial paradise and its influence on different and opposing social organizations.
Early interventions of this project, that tested it against a changing landscape of gender identity, were presented at the Kloone4000 (curated by Anje Roosjen, Amsterdam, 2005).
An installation and performance-lecture, that are both currently in research and development, aim to broaden the dialogue about social predispositions and scientific developments that have a direct bearing on gender and sexuality, and their ramifications for our society and culture.
© 1994-Current, Olga Ast
GO TO A FRAGMENT OF THE FLASH MOVIE "From the Fall of Man"
SELECTED IMAGES FROM THE INSTALLATION
© 1994-2004, Olga Ast. RECONSTRUCTION OF ADAM / THE FALL OF MAN
Digital manipulation of Albrecht Dürer'sThe Fall of Man (Adam and Eve,1504)