Every day, we experience the intersection of technology with beauty and concepts of identity – we’ve all whiled away hours modifying ourselves with Instagram filters. But we’re also beginning to glimpse the scope for more radical transformations and diverse forms of self-expression that could evolve in the future. The possibilities of tech to adapt and enlarge our perception of the world around us, as well as creating space for multiplicity, is boundless.
Esmay Wagemans is an artist “forever in search of creating new human shapes”. Inspired by science fiction, her practice imagines how technologisation and digitisation could metamorphosise the human body. The Dutch artist’s futuristic aesthetic of latex and perspex fuses anatomy with tech, reimagining bodies as bionic, transhuman creations. You might recognise her cerebral body sculptures from Cardi B’s “UP” video too.
Wagemans is featured in Stonewall 2069, a short film commissioned as part of the New Creatives project (which brings Dazed, the ICA, and the BBC together in collaboration). Directed by Samuel Douek, the film takes its inspiration from the Stonewall Riots in New York City, widely credited with being the inception of the LGBTQ+ movement. Considering the half-century that’s passed since the legendary three-day riot, Douek envisages where we may be in 50 years hence and how technology may be harnessed as a means of furthering the cause of queer liberation.
The film depicts Wagemans making the prototype for a futuristic mask, a piece of hackable body equipment that would incorporate software and could conceptually queer the notion of identity. “The story Samuel created is about documenting the making of a mask that is a fictive hacked nano-tech transhuman prototype that connects a global network of queer people who reject the mainstream appetite for immortality, super-intelligence, and well-being,” she told Dazed. “An object that you could take off and allows any uncensored software to be installed like scrambled identity – becoming all identities simultaneously.”
“Today marks an explosion of choice and freedom when it comes to identities,” the film’s narrator tells us. “I believe technology will lead the way in expanding that circle even further to encompass transhuman individuals.” Biotech and technological enhancements of the body represent the promise of vast future possibilities for queer culture, identities, and bodies; a future in which we can re-create our physical selves. Considering the ways in which technology could shift our ideas of gender and provide more scope to explore and express selfhood, Wagemans explains, “At least I hope as far as that it will feel and be normal for everyone to rethink the body birth gave us.”
By focusing on the process of materiality and broadening the capabilities of transhuman tech, what does Wagemans envisage for 2069? “I’m way too fanciful and aesthetic-obsessed to have a specific answer on that question,” she tells us. “But I do think that the most known concepts of becoming a posthuman – like upgrading the body with nanotechnology, integration of software, genetic engineering – will first be overtaken by the popularity of new beauty standards.”
Take a look through the gallery, above, for a glimpse of Esmay Wagemans’ futuristic creation in Stonewall 2069.