UsThemThemUs is a video comprised of statements extracted from sci-fi cinema in which characters attempt to articulate a boundary between humans and non-humans. These declarations of difference desperately seek to establish delineations between human and machine and animal, yet often resort to nebulous-to-define traits such as emotion, belief, or the soul. Rather than establish clear definitions of what the human is or is not, these attempts instead reveal a slippery space of boundary determinations. Also revealed are the anxieties and pejorative associations entangled with notions of difference and otherness, particularly when ‘the other’ begins to become the same…

The prevalence of films and TV series such as Bladerunner, Terminator, and Battlestar Gallactica reveal the modern-day anxiety surrounding the boundary between the ‘natural’ and the ‘unnatural’. Fragmented sentences extracted from these sources scroll through the video, overlap, become entangled and overwhelmingly incomprehensible at points. The delineations used to define the human – soul, emotion, or belief – are vague and intangible and do little to establish clarity between the human versus the non-human.
The visual fragments are sourced from online videos and show humans somewhat violently interacting with non-humans – in one clip and baby and child are attacking one another, and in another humans kick robots. Historically, humans have defined themselves in contrast to animals, which was also a continually complicated and fluctuating terrain, yet the contemporary threat is clearly becoming the machine. The response of the Robotic Dogs to the human kicks in the video shows the scientific breakthrough of the robot responding to an unexpected change in the environment and immediately adapting and stabilizing itself. This development is significant in the scientific community, yet also veers towards the actual realization of an artificial intelligence that has only been until recently, anxiously dreamed about by writers and filmmakers. As the machine and the human rapidly become closer in capability, we must contemplate the realities of what this new relationship with ‘the other’ will mean, and the potential manifestations that it can take.

About the artist

Portrait_Nicole RayburnMy multi-media artistic practice is a blundering convergence of the use of language, video, and absurdity. My work critically explores terrains such as human/nonhuman relations, contemporary socio-political issues, and concepts of boundary and transgression through topics such as religion, science and popular culture. I currently reside in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada.