Luisa Whitton: What About the Heart

Luisa Whitton is a photographer based in London.

Her long term project, “What About the Heart” is a documentary series on the humanoid robotics industry of Japan. In her work, Whitton pursues the themes of technology, progress and their impacts on the human condition.

“The contemporary advances of technology in Japan have entered a realm that was once only seen in science fiction. A niche of the Japanese robotics industry is driven by a philosophical pursuit to understand what it means to be human, and believes that making human robotics is the answer.

Photographer Luisa Whitton has spent several months in Japan working with Scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro, a Japanese scientist who built a robotic copy of himself, and continues to work with other scientists documenting their scientific progress on humanoids. Whitton’s probing into the Japanese humanoid industry is motivated by a pursuit to answer; what drives technological progress? And with a technological future in sight, what will the human consequences be? The photographic series focuses heavily on the eerily lifelike faces, that were constructed for the robots as a way to question the humanistic aspect of the subject.

‘In the photographs, I am trying to subvert the traditional formula of portraiture and lure the audience into a debate on the boundaries that determine the dichotomy of human/not human. The photographs become documents of objects that sit between scientific tool and horrid simulacrum.’

Whitton’s images are often accompanied by transcribed interviews between herself and the scientists, where she asks questions on the philosophy and sociological impact in creating such robots. In doing so the text gives access to the human side of the project, and an insight into the scientist’s pursuit of answering the larger question: what does it mean to be human as technology progresses?

In an interview with Scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro on the definition of being human , she asks; ‘What about the heart?’ he answers, unaware of the abstract intentions of her question; ‘The is the easiest part; artificial hearts is very popular now. The liver is more difficult’.”

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