Human Simulacrum

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Luisa Whitton first became interested in what she describes as “technology and its effects on identity, in particular its ability to create a double self ” while working on a project during the second year of her BA degree at London College of Communication. Soon after, she came across a documentary on Japanese scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro, who had constructed a robotic double of himself, and she was instantly compelled to meet him. Whitton spent several months in Japan interviewing Ishiguro, as well as other scientists, and photographing their laboratories.

The images that make up her series, What About the Heart?, focus heavily on the eerily lifelike faces that were constructed for the robots as a way to question the humanistic aspect of the subject. “In my photographs I am trying to subvert the traditional formula of portraiture and lure the audience into a debate on the boundaries that determine the dichotomy of the human/not human. The photographs become documents of objects that sit between scientific tool and horrid simulacrum.”


Whitton’s images are accompanied by transcribed interviews between herself and the scientists, in which she asks questions about emotions and the role of religion in creating such robots. “The text gives access to the human side of the project;the images are all robots, and the interview text is from the scientists. I have been careful not to be too literal in their reading so the text enhances the magic of the images.”

Whitton encountered an entirely different view of robotics when she was in Japan, and she has tried to portray that view in the project. “It isn’t just about the technology. The pursuit of these answers is motivated by gaining knowledge about life, which brings up a much broader conversation about life and death.”

After graduation, Whitton plans to continue the project in Japan and expand on the themes worldwide to include “more weird and wonderful technological niches in America”.

Luisa Whitton’s Kickstarter campaign goes live for 30 days on 1 October 2014.

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