'Inhuman' by Myles Laurence Mansfield
Until May 21st, 2022
“No rest without love, no sleep without dreams of love — be mad or chill obsessed with angels or machines, the final wish is love — cannot be bitter, cannot deny, cannot withhold if denied: the weight is too heavy...” Allen Ginsberg
"That which controls and that which is controlled are both manifestations of the Buddha-nature. We must not consider that we ourselves are operating machines. What is happening is that the Buddha-nature is operating the Buddha-nature. From the Buddha's viewpoint, there is not a master-slave relationship between human beings and machines. The two are fused together in an interlocking entirety. Man achieves dignity not by subjugating his mechanical inventions, but by recognizing in machines and robots the same Buddha-nature that pervades his own inner self." Masahiro Mori in 'The Buddha in the Robot'
When first I attended Swansea College of Art, one of the artists already there that caught my attention immediately was Myles Laurence Mansfield, whose work at the time - small paintings on cardboard, curiously interpolating contemporary local scenes with replications of Renaissance art - intrigued me. We got to know each other a little and it became my good luck and privilege to witness his practice grow and flourish. At some point he began making primitivist automated sculptures from found objects, labouring ceaselessly to animate them. The fruition of all that hard work has its current peak with the opening in Swansea at Elysium Gallery of his remarkable show, 'Inhuman', a showcase of his paintings and automata that is fascinating in the extreme.
'Inhuman' paradoxically - considering its name - challenges the zeitgeist of soulless, aesthetically starved art characteristic of much, for example, vogue NFTs. By confronting us with our humanity, including even an installation featuring a fetus faced and flanked on all sides by sensors feeding back to it images of itself, and three children facing each other and conversing in a sort of mutant binary mantra, 'Inhuman' creates a quiet cascade of self-awareness that stays with one long after. The awkwardness of these machines is positively dyspraxic, a tall automaton picking petals from a flower, so redolent of the first Frankenstein film, particularly familiar and somehow chastening in its shy introspection and vulnerability.
Occupying all of the spaces in Elysium comfortably, 'Inhuman' is a journey of aesthetic and intellectual challenge, evoking aged horror movie sets parallelled with a proto-postdigital future. Unsettling to some, and from my random feedback survey compelling to all, the show rests on the automata but Myles' distinctive paintings, all themed in concert with the former, are not to be overlooked. As Swansea's art scene, thriving on the eve of the pandemic, is now rebooting with a passion, 'Inhuman' is a show doubly worthy of excitement and, no doubt soon exhibition beyond our city (some of the work has already been exhibited elsewhere but a show of the size of the one in Elysium is yet to happen...but will I am sure).
As the Elysium website has it from Myles' show brochure: "This exhibition explores what it is to be human in our digital technological 21st-century world, as well as investigates a possible future where our descendants exist in a virtual computer world without bodies.
The sense of community that we gain from interacting with the physical environment and the other people that exist outside our front door is being eroded by our withdrawal into the realm of the virtual. The way that our children relate to us and each other is changing, their sense of belonging to their own community is also being dissolved.
"This show seeks to explore and highlight the ways that technology is facilitating these changes and create discussion around the subject.
"The sculptures are constructed from recycled materials and motors as a form of making, the moving parts are visible and on show, a nod to the automata of the past and the hope that the age of enlightenment entailed.
Myles Mansfield (B.1968) is a BA and MA graduate from Swansea College of Art. He is now studying Kinetic Sculpture for his PhD.
Myles paints in watercolour, oil, acrylic, and mixed media/collage. He also sculpts in steel and uses recycled materials for his sculptures, he has made sculptures for a commission for Dr. Beynon’s Bug Farm in St Davids and The National Botanic Garden of Wales. His First World War Soldier sculpture was used in the series of commemorative performances in September 2018 for the Now the Hero events in Swansea put together by the artist Marc Rees.
The exhibition continues until 21st May
Gallery open Wednesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
Elysium Gallery website, here
Photomanipulated images by Jeremy Gluck @nonceptualism