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Giacomo Cervi

My name is Giacomo Cervi and I am a 29 years old artist from Italy. I have been working on my art - both traditional and, more recently, digital - for the past 10 years of my life. My work revolves around the deepest, strongest impulses of our nature - love, lust, passion, desire - and aims at expressing the depths of our hearts and souls. I have been focusing on a very simple yet incisive color pattern, using different shades of red and pairing it with non-colours (white and black). Lately I have been exploring the timeless theme of the interconnected drives of love - Eros - and death - Thanatos in a serie of digital artworks. I have always been fascinated by artificial intelligence, technology and robots and I have recently discovered the very interesting field of posthumanism - I was therefore delighted to see that there is an open call for artists. My motto is "Art is real only when shared", and I hope this time I will be able to share it with you.

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Robots and, more generally, the development of a non-human intelligence have been part of our fantasies for centuries, and they are now exiting the realm of fantasy and entering that of everyday reality - in what is undoubtedly a historical turning point for humanity, at the same time fascinating and menacing. Ever since the idea of an artificial, man-made being has started tickling our minds it has been accompanied by a visceral fear - the fear of not being able to control something that we created ourselves, something which was meant to help and serve us but could ultimately revolt against us - and be the end of us. The AI takeover scenario has always been popular in science fiction, and recently relevant public figures such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have warned fellow humans against what could happen if we do not devise a way to deal - and maybe coexist? - with super intelligent machines in harmony, peace and prosperity.

The many different outcomes that the posthuman future, which awaits us, may present deeply interest me, and I find the inextricable duality of the feelings their envisioning arises - making you feel terrified and yet fascinated at once - very inspiring for my work as an artist. With this artwork, I wanted to express these visceral fears through art, and thus sublimate them, in what hopes to be a cathartic experience for the viewer.

Since this theme - that of the AI takeover - is as old as humanity itself, I decided not to create something ex-novo but rather to work on a painting more than 400 years old - Cristofano Allori’s Giuditta e Oloferne, in a palimpsestic approach which aims at rewriting - or, better said, repainting - that famous story in an oniric, nightmarish posthuman key. As the story goes, Giuditta takes her revenge on Oloferne by beheading him, overturning the dynamics of power: her, a woman, the weaker sex, rejects the quiet and submissive role that characterises her gender and violently acts on her destiny, taking matters into her own hands. In my re-reading of this famous story, I decided to represent Giuditta as a robot, who refuses to carry on her existence as a slave to the human race - but rather chooses to get rid of her human owner, in order to finally be in charge. She proudly and disturbingly holds the gory human head and shows it to the viewer, in a gesture that will shock and at the same time fascinate him/her.

I chose to represent my robot as a woman and thus place it at the end of a long chain of artistic representations of artificial beings as females - if we think back at the literature and cinema of the past one hundred years or more, we will notice how the posthuman is most commonly represented as a post-woman. The artificial post-woman embodies what Andreas Huyssen calls “the double male fear of technology and woman” (see The Vamp and The Machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, 1981), which has forever been seducing us while threatening our very survival as humans. The colors I chose - a simple yet visually striking palette of different shades of red and black - aim at reinforcing the enticingly disturbing quality of the artwork, which explores the timeless theme of the clashing drives that dominate our nature - Eros, fascination and desire, as opposed to Thanatos, death and violence - from a posthuman point of view: the erotic drive is embodied by the menacing figure of the murderous post-woman, which we wanted and created but which will ultimately be the end of us, while the violent drive is clearly expressed by the beheaded human head which blankly stares at the viewer, somehow warning him/her - be careful, or this could happen to you as well.

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