Real Feelings: Emotion and Technology

Real Feelings: Emotion and Technology

Emotions are the essence of human experience. Love them or hate them: they are interwoven with every aspect of daily life and influence the direction we take as individuals and as a society. They make us human and distinguish us from robots and other machines. Or does the digital age ask for — or even demand — a redefinition?

At this point in time, machines are getting smarter, even intelligent. Does this mean that the emotional intelligence gap between humans and machines also grows narrower? And — from a slightly different perspective — are we still in control of our emotions; love, empathy, hate, fear? Or are we losing grip of how we really feel in these transformative times, and are we not only supported, but also influenced, surveyed and manipulated by technology? 

Real Feelings: Emotion and Technology presents the works of 20 international contemporary artists who challenge, provoke and explore the accelerating interactions between technology and emotions: from the highs and the lows to the pains and the pleasures. Join us for an open-ended investigation of a theme at the core of these tech-driven, COVID-19-ruled times.

Technology has begun to engage with our emotions as never before. In fact, these technologies are even creating new feelings, for some of which we haven’t yet found the words to describe them with. Social media, AI, robotics, biometrics, Virtual Reality: they are collating and assessing our emotions in multiple ways. Big tech companies try to control the way we behave by triggering the release of dopamine through apps, fed by biometric data. Our heartbeat, perspiration, speech and body language are being monitored by smart watches, trackers, apps and webcams that play a more and more prominent role in our lives. Anxiety and depression associated with screen time become more of a constant in the lives of young children than interpersonal activity and exchanges.

At the same time, in the past year, technology has been the glue that has kept us connected with each other, enabling us to share despite the social distancing and lack of physical connection. This physicality is such an important part of communication, which in hindsight has been taken for granted up until the point it wasn’t possible anymore. 

Our world is flooded with digital technology and these devices have literally become extensions of ourselves: robots are entering homes, schools and hospitals as smart assistants in empathic roles and to fulfil sexual needs, smart devices take care of our needs – we are communicating more with our technology than with one another. Like Sherry Turkle states, ‘technology seduces us by making emotions ‘easy’ when offering relationships without the complexity of being face to face’. We are willing to cede to technology the messiness, complexity and sheer time it takes to understand, let alone manage human emotions. The question rises: how will technology alter social behaviour; how will we be intimate, honest and present with one another?

Work: Solitary Survival Raft - Lucy McRae. Photo: Ariel Fisher

Participating artists
Antoine Catala (FR)Stine Deja & Marie Munk (DK)Heather Dewey-Hagborg (US)Justine Emard (FR)Cécile B. Evans (UK)Ed Fornieles (UK)Maria Guta (RO)Esther Hunziker (CH)Seokyung Kim (KR)Clément Lambelet (CH)Lorem (IT)Kyle McDonald & Lauren McCarthy (US)Simone C. Niquille (CH)Dani Ploeger (NL)Lucy McRae (AU)Shinseungback Kimyonghun (KR)Maija Tammi (FI)Troika (UK)Coralie Vogelaar (NL)Liam Young (AU)

Curators
Sabine Himmelsbach, Ariane Koek and Angelique Spaninks

Real Feelings has been realized in collaboration with HeK (Basel, Switzerland) and is supported by Pro Helvetia. In the MU webshop the comprehensive Real Feelings catalogue is for sale, documenting the works in the exhibition and featuring current scientific and artistic contributions.

Work: Co(AI)xistence - Justine Emard. Photo: Justine Emard / Adagp, Paris 2020 

Lorem - Adversarial Feelings (2019

Campaign image: Coralie Vogelaar - Infinite Posture Dataset (2020)