The
Irreplaceable
Human

23.11.23 - 1.4.24

A talking mouse, a gorilla under a desk and a dreaming blanket... With works by more than 60 artists, this large-scale, interdisciplinary exhibition sought to define the phenomenon of creativity from a broad, humanistic perspective. What are the conditions for creativity in society today? And is there reason to fear that artificial intelligence will take over and surpass human creative abilities?

The exhibition was supported by A.P. Møller Fonden, Aage og Johanne Louis-Hansens Fond and Det Obelske Familiefond.

The exhibition The Irreplaceable Human – Conditions of Creativity in the Age of AI aimed to create the foundation for a conversation about the role of creativity in our society – and thus also for a discussion about what is really valuable to us. The exhibition presented works by more than 60 artists – with the main emphasis on art from the past 20 years – combined with references to cultural history, science, and literature.

Previous exhibitions of this kind at the museum include Arctic (2013), The Moon (2018), and Mother! (2021).

Trevor Paglen, From 'Apple' to 'Anomaly', 2023. Photographer Malle Madsen.

The human being under pressure

A central motif throughout the exhibition was human beings reduced to their functionality in a system.

Tetsuya Ishida Mebae, 1998. Collection of Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art. ©Tetsuya Ishida Estate.

For example, as in the Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishida’s masterpiece Mebae (Awakening) from 1998. Here we see schoolboys with identical faces sitting in perfect rows. Some have even become the microscopes being used in the teaching, like children turned into instruments.

A Gorilla
and a mouse

Behind a glass door in the far right corner of one of first exhibition rooms, you could find a barren and smelly office with a desk. Under the table was a hidden, animatronic gorilla that grunted and almost desperately seemed to be trying to count on its fingers.

This was a brand new work by British concept artist Ryan Gander, who was also "responsible" for another work in the show, namely the talking mouse in a hole in the wall.

The exhibition focused not only at the field of culture but also at society in general, revealing how creative processes are crucial in every ‘backwater’ and at every level. In other words, it was not a tribute to art but an investigative story about the value of creativity, which is as vital in the laboratory as in the studio. The aim of the exhibition was to create the foundation for a conversation about the role of creativity in our society.

The core of humanism

Creativity can be seen as a broad phenomenon that defines what it means to be human.

Aura Rosenberg, "Ann Craven/Chelsea" 1996

When we talk about the irreplaceability of humans, it is mainly about what we can do that the machine/computer cannot handle. Here, one of the answers, also historically, has been the phenomenon of creativity. As the exhibition seeks to show, creativity is more about how you work than what you work with. Thus, it becomes something that we all have a potential for and defines us as people: we do not endlessly do the same thing but develop and reinvent ourselves and our needs all the time. The creative is thus something fundamentally human – a core of humanism.

TWO TRACKS

The exhibition The Irreplaceable Human – Conditions of Creativity in the Age of AI was divided into two primary tracks. The first part consisted of three chapters essential for understanding how we develop creativity today: Childhood, Work, and Artificial Intelligence.

The second part of the exhibition – divided into two chapters, Time and Cross-pollination – revolved around garnering respect and appreciation for actions and abilities that are often considered a waste of time, redundant, unimportant, bad for business, or just difficult to valuate. Altogether, creativity here emerged as something inherently crucial for our society’s positive development and survival. As a whole, the exhibition argued that we need to take the long view: to prepare the ground beyond what seems immediately lucrative and to dare to believe that something new and valuable will emerge from it.

Josh Kline, By Close of Business (Maura / Small-Business Owner), 2016. Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway. Photographer Malle Madsen.

Six films

Throughout the exhibition, a number of experts delved into the themes of artificial intelligence, time, work-life, childhood, cross-pollination, and creativity. Please follow the link to find a dedicated page, where you can watch the six films from the exhibition.

Watch all six filmed interviews here.

ARTISTS IN THE EXHIBITION

Yuji Agematsu, Trisha Baga, Bertille Bak, Brian Belott, Louisiana Bendolph, Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, Andrea Büttner, Nick Cave, Ian Cheng, Chicks on Speed, Tony Cokes, Minder Coleman, Joost Conijn, Tony Conrad, Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Agnes Denes, Simon Denny, Rineke Dijkstra, Mia Edelgart, Ryan Gander, Flavia Gandolfo, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ben Grosser, Andreas Gursky, Jenny Holzer, Marguerite Humeau, Tetsuya Ishida, Martin Kippenberger, Josh Kline, Agnieszka Kurant, Pope.L., Candice Lin, Jumana Manna, Ana Mendieta, Isamu Noguchi, Henrik Olesen, Roman Opalka, Trevor Paglen, Dawn Parsonage, Martha Pettway, Martha Jane Pettway, Pablo Picasso, Yuri Pattison, Huang Po-Chih, Jon Rafman, Aura Rosenberg, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, Qiu Shihua, Mladen Stilinović, Lily van der Stokker, Tavares Strachan, Pilvi Takala, Emma Talbot, Tourmaline, Lee Wan, Irene Williams, RobotLAB.