What if we were half human and half computer? What if we were half human and half machine, half alien, half creature, or half anything else? Trends in the arts suggest that we are pushing the envelope both in theatrics, but more importantly, the entire idea of humanness.

This medley from JabbaWockeeZ typifies a very popular style of dance. The illusion that the performers create is that they are not fully human, but human-ish. They are human in some ways and machine in other ways. Another great example is Haspop. For an example in music, notice the album cover for Christina Aguilera’s Bionic:

Similarly, we see many dance performances by those who are part human and part other worldly. A perfect example of this is Richmond, VA’s Fighting Gravity (amazing). These explorations are unique on many levels. Most pronounced, I think, is that we can view ourselves more objectively if we were not, uh, ourselves. It is culture’s way of self-exploration. We are introspective as we search for meaning and purpose. Is this where we should look for answers about reality?

Nothing drives home my point better than the art of Blue Man Group. They are part human and part, uh, something else. Taken from Wiki:

The Blue Man Ensemble can be considered a type of a creature approximating a real male human being. The strongest and most obvious Blue Man characteristic is his static appearance, namely, the ear-less, bright blue head and face, and nondescript, utilitarian clothing. In action, the Blue Man does not speak and his face is usually expressionless, although suggestions of curiosity, surprise, wonder, chagrin, etc. are sometimes visible. The Blue Man does not communicate through speech or broad body language or gestures; rather, he communicates through intense eye contact and simple gestures. He acts impulsively and primarily as a group of three, “checking in” with the other two when making decisions and before moving to their next action.

Major themes brought to the forefront in their illusion are various:

  • Science and technology, especially the topics of plumbing, fractals, human sight, DNA, and the Internet.
  • Information overload and information pollution, such as when the audience is asked to choose one of three simultaneous streams of information to read.
  • Innocence, as when the Blue Men appear to be surprised and perplexed by common artifacts of modern society or by audience reactions.
  • Self-conscious and naïve imitation of cultural norms, such as attempting to stage an elegant dinner for an audience member withTwinkies; or following the Rock Concert Instruction Manual (see below) with the expectation that following a series of instructions is all it takes to put on a rock concert.
  • The Outsider. Blue Men always appear as a group of three. This is because not only are Blue Men viewed as outsiders to the rest of the world, but three is the smallest group possible wherein there can be a subgroup of more than one as well as a subgroup of one, the outsider. Many of the Blue Man skits involve one of the three Blue Men performing in a manner inconsistent with the other two.

Fascinating inquiry. Now, how can I take a rather complicated quest for self-discovery and draw out a useful thesis in a concise way? Let me try.

If we cannot remain human beings with careful attention to the whole person, everything is lost. We cannot know humanness individually or collectively. We cannot know humanness with pure objectively or subjectively. We are incapable of knowing humanness as all material or all spirit. We are an enigma even to ourselves. Thus, we are incapable of saying, believing or doing anything with any amount of conviction. All meaning is lost. Everything becomes “meaningless, meaningless, says the teacher” (Ecclesiastes 12.8). Click here for part 2.