The Balance and Ghost

In the middle of the field is a sculpture called The Balance, which presents the ideal creatures that inhabit this hybrid ecology. Alongside is their cool, hanging friend Ghost.

To me, Ghost is about how nature is increasingly technological, and the way that the organic — whether animal or vegetable — is no longer what marks something as natural. When turkeys can no longer breed without human help, are they really still natural?

I think Ghost is an adorable, music loving fellow who wears his Rastafarian hat made up of a tyre with real pride. I especially love his luxurious hanging mane of hair. I imagine him head banging at a rock concert — except of course that he doesn’t have a head — or maybe he is all head and no body? Whatever he is, he is an amorphous being that doesn’t fit neatly into our categories.

Headbanger by Jacob Ehrbahn.

The Balance is another way of looking at the world of Ghost but inverted. While Ghost shows the technologising of nature, The Balance shows the naturalisation of technology. These are machines imagined as animals, locked in an ambiguous clinch. These are the wildlife of a world where we talk to our cars and our computers talk to us.

The Balance is especially interesting to me because it references representations of nature and culture in art history. We have a long tradition of this and a fantastic example of one by George Stubbs sits in the NGV. Traditionally these images represent the brutality of nature, often depicted by a lion or other predator attacking a more vulnerable creature, like a horse or a deer. We see how, unlike us humans, nature is uncivilised and violent - only the fittest survive. This is totally ridiculous. We human animals are probably the most violent animals.

A lion attacking a horse” by George Stubbs (c. 1765) at the National Gallery of Victoria.

In The Balance we see two technological creatures interacting with each other. We don’t quite know if they are fighting or embracing. We know that they have an intimacy, a connection, because they are looking into each other’s faces. We see their agency. They are acting beyond our control, and this in itself is confronting because that is not what we want from technology. We expect to be able to control technology, but as it becomes increasingly sophisticated, we risk losing that control. This is especially true in fields like artificial intelligence. And much like genetic engineering, technology is proceeding faster than our social understanding of it.