Christiaan Zwanikken’s installations are like an interactive Wunderkammer and include configurations of shrieking, clapping and ticking curiosities generated by machinery, as if in a futuristic zoo. His new work, Exoskeletal, pays homage to the Mayan legend of the ‘Animal Spirit’, known as Nagual, where a human being through sacred rite has the power to turn him/herself into an animal by way of shapeshifting.
The Exoskeletal is a robotic, body-extension suit consisting of a real boar skull which has been reanimated with animatronics mounted at one end, and an adjustable mechanical harness at the other end. The Exoskeletal becomes anthropomorphic as it is worn, extending the human body through mechanical prosthesis, pointing to the evolution of the human species.
As a form of hybridisation, a performer demonstrates how it is to be incorporated into a human-animal-machine with an extra mechanical limb. Instead of being the operator of a machine, the performer not only interacts with the work but becomes it; automated and extended. Like a Nagual, entering into a journey of metamorphosis, passing through the phases from human, to animal, to machine, and back to human.
The Exoskeletal functions as one operational system where, the human body and the animal robot are in a state of symbiosis, a harmonising of the technological and the natural.
Zwanikken has recently exhibited at American Museum of Natural History, New York and at the most recent edition of ISEA.