thumbnail image

As a part of the exhibition COCKS! artist and curator Mateas Pares interviews all participating artists. In this interview we meet Tim Høibjerg (b. 1986), a Norwegian visual artist, living and working in between Oslo and Stockholm. Høibjerg discusses his artwork "Post-Anthropocene Portrait II," which blends human anatomy with technology and spirituality to imagine a future where biology may become superficial. The artwork challenges traditional gender roles and identities by speculating a future where body modifications are limitless, raising ethical questions that must be carefully considered. Høibjerg also explores the boundaries between monstrous and virtuous aspects of technological advancements and the role of norms in guiding our behaviour and navigating society's evolving acceptance of self-expression.

4 min read

 Mateas Pares: Could you tell us a little bit about the background of the artwork?

Tim Høibjerg: "Post-Anthropocene Portrait II" is a work that imagines the future by blending human anatomy with technology and spirituality. The artwork's iconography is a fusion of human and machine that goes beyond our physical limitations. Delving into what could be perceived as a haunting nightmare or one's most intimate fantasy.

When I saw this work a few years ago at your graduation show, I remember that I thought it looked like something anatomical, but more resembling a vagina and a uterus, but when I now look at it again, I also seem to recognise the silhouette of a cock in the lower part. Am I on to something here?

Yes. The sculpture blends both male and female anatomy, leading to diverse interpretations from the spectator. It suggests a potentially more fluid future where biology may become superficial, and body modifications could be pushed beyond their limits.

What do you mean by biology may become superficial?

Biology may become superficial if our bodies are reduced to temporary vessels for our consciousness, interchangeable and modifiable, thus diminishing the importance of our biological bodies as nothing more than cosmetic representations.

Do you mean the body’s reproductive function? As I would imagine you believe that our bodies in large part have always been about representation.

While our bodies do represent us, they are currently limited in their ability to fully express ourselves due to the constraints of survival. We must consider the functioning of vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys, which restrict our ability to achieve complete morphological freedom. The work is speculating around a future where the modifications are limitless. This could potentially lead to new opportunities for self-expression, but it also raises ethical questions that must be carefully considered.

Post-Anthropocene Portrait II, 2021, Edition of 3, 60 x 50 x 40 cm

If you speculated, in what way do you think this limitless freedom of expression would do to our gender roles and gender identities? 

The idea of limitless morphological freedom poses a challenge not only to traditional gender roles and identities but also to our very conception of what it means to be human. If we were to achieve complete control over our physical forms, it would represent a sort of new Copernican revolution in our understanding of ourselves. However, freeing us from our bodies might enslave us in unpredictable ways. 

I get the feeling that you have some ideas about these ways…

In today's world, technological advancements reflect both the positive and negative aspects of human nature, essentially mirroring who we are. This is evident when, for instance, text AI generates biased or offensive responses. The idea of an undemocratic and oppressive AI is particularly frightening I think, especially when logic based on human nature completely dominates emotion. Like the common sci-fi trope where AI, assigned to better the world, deems eradicating humans as the logical solution. I am interested in exploring both the monstrous and virtuous aspects, as well as the boundaries between them and individual perceptions of these qualities.

Tim Høibjerg

This technical future that you bring up is part of a long lineage of technical advancements where we have gotten increasingly more opportunities to modify our bodies. A crucial part of this development is norms, I would say. Total creative freedom to modify our bodies means nothing if norms say that it’s a bad thing because it would lead to the general population not using this creative freedom. Norms are very much part of this exhibition. Everyone can technically use the cock in art, but there is a lot of stigma around using it, which makes it a touchy motif to use. Do you think norms will disappear, and do you think that would be a good thing? How would we navigate without them?

Complete elimination of norms may not necessarily be desirable, as they provide a framework for social interaction and guide our behaviour in many situations. However, as society continues to evolve, norms will evolve with it. In the context of self-expression, we can see this with the growing acceptance of tattoos and piercings, for example. A revolt against norms that limit our creativity and personal freedom is especially important.

Tim Høibjerg on Artworks  

To the exhibition COCKS! 

Interview by Mateas Pares