Human Powers

Is a naked human being disabled? Perhaps, he is incomplete… I have always considered the tools that I use for my job and in my daily life as extensions of my body. After all they are prosthesis. As parts of my human nature.

For ancient Greeks, the condition of Homer was sacred: his blindness was considered an out of the common introspective gift, carrier of a superior human conscience.

When in the summer of 2007 IAAF raised the problem of a possible life disqualification of Oscar Pistorius I felt discomfort, a feeling that I could not easily explain. Disable super-able, odd paradox. After seeing Aimee Mullins talking at the TED, and reading her article, together with the one about Hugh Herr, published on Wired Italia, I have clearly understood that the disqualification of Pistorius would have been a negation of what humanity has developed with time, the negation of the meaning of the word human as an adaptable and cultural being.

In the posting synesthesia I spoke about musicians who transcend their body through the use of technology. Perhaps, should I have said that they reinvent their bodies? Yes, because playing like a Monkey Drummer, more than overcoming one’s physical limits, means virtually reinventing one’s body through the use of artistic imagination.
The invention of any musical instrument is a re-formulation, a potentiality of the human body: through a musical instrument, the body can act in unusual and different ways. New technologies have further developed this possibility. This creative and technical impulse is produced by the necessity of adapting to life’s conditions and charged by an emotional, poetic and creative tension.

The aptitude to reinvent nature is a human peculiarity. A current definition of the word human must contemplate the tendency of humans in reinventing their own way of being and their own environment. From this point of view, we must absolutely look over the meaning of words such as nature, artifice, human, body and last, but not least, disabled.

Hugh Herr lost his legs in an accident. Consequently, his creativity and his spirit of adaptability have brought him to do an excellent job on prosthesis at the Media Lab.

I have always considered the tools that I use for my job and in my daily life as extensions of my body, after all they are prosthesis. I consider my prosthesis as parts of my human nature. How many of you wouldn’t feel disabled if deprived by your computer or mobile phone? These devices are prosthesises of our mind, extensions of our memory, processors of support to our thoughts and to communication.

Is a naked human being disabled? Perhaps, he is incomplete, considering that we live in symbiosis with our artificial extensions: we dress up not only with clothes, but also with tools that make our lives better.
Aimee Mullins points out that a disadvantage may be an occasion. In days of crisis like ours, I cannot believe that not few people would take into consideration the importance of a similar line of thought. She is not an icon of diversity, and she is not a cyborg, and even if she were all of us would be, too. Aimee Mullins is a brilliant manifestation of adaptable intelligence, she is the icon of human variety that expresses itself in new ways of using the body.

The contemporary civilization has developed instruments that offer wonderful occasions of knowledge and great opportunity of emancipation, in these conditions the varieties expressed by the diversities are huge sources for the cultural human development. With her way of being, Aimee Mullins vividly renders explicit certain human typicalities that are not very clear in everybody’s mind. In her article, she mentions the necessity of reconsidering the meaning of the word disabled, and she says that it is not only a semantic issue.

This is one of those cases in which our time puts us into the condition of rephrasing the ideas on identity and human nature. Beyond the way of using one’s body, the people mentioned in this article stand out for the way they use their brains and emotions, Hugh Herr, Aimee Mullins and Oscar Pistorius, with their enthusiastic presence, invite us once again to reconsider an old doubt: what does being human mean?
The issue does not just involve some few people and their way of living, but it concerns something that involves everyone, each one of us, it is a question of identity.

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Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


About Fabrice de Nola

Fabrice de Nola is an Italian-Belgian artist. His research and practice focuses in the fields of information architecture and augmented reality integrated to painting, site-specific installations, and cultural heritage sites.
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