Contemporary artists are proposing radical new approaches to figuration in the posthuman era. Although many of them employ digital photography and video to conjure sci-fi-style visions of a future humanity, our reality is changing almost too quickly for anyone to keep up. Think of the spread of wearable devices and the emergence of generative AI tools like ChatGPT or Midjourney; now Elon Musk’s Neuralink corporation is going ahead with human trials for brain implant technology.
Under these conditions artists may have more to contribute by revisiting our origins rather than divining our future. They might portray the human as a corporeal being driven by physical and sexual appetites (Rikako Kawauchi [cat. nos. 101, 102]) or as one with both animal and vegetal traits (Mariko Matsushita [cat. no. 100]). Or they might experiment with hybrid forms, integrating the naiveté and spirituality of Asian wood carving (Rieko Otake [cat. no. 105]). Yet we also cannot overlook those who find ways of celebrating the apparent banality of everyday life (Ryoko Aoki [cat. nos. 95–98], Masato Mori [cat. no. 99]) or grapple with how to appreciate and represent contemporary societies, for which popular culture is so vital (Yang Bo [cat. no. 103], Yuichiro Ukai [cat. no. 104]). Works by such artists may look like reactions against change, but art would not be where it is today without its rebellious spirit.