Transhumanism and Androids: Belfast Photo Festival Features

  • Photo: David Vintiner's shot of Rob Spence for his I Want to Believe piece

    Belfast Photo Festival returns this week with a vibrant online and offline programme of immersive exhibitions and large-scale outdoor art works to be showcased in galleries and public spaces throughout Belfast.

    Running from 3 – 30 June, the festival will be one of the first of its kind to facilitate a largely in-person festival experience following the recent easing of lockdown restrictions.

    Alongside its physical exhibitions, the event will also host an extensive programme of online talks and events exploring the role of photography in imagining new visions of the future. 

    Taking “Future(s)” as its theme, this year’s festival tackles issues as diverse as climate change, migration, the advancement of technology, government surveillance and the power of protest, to explore how the future is shaped by our actions in the present. Rather than presenting a singular vision of what this future might be or look like, the festival instead offers up a speculative, imaginative glimpse into the myriad possibilities of what might lie ahead.

    I Want to Believe - by David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher

    As part of the technological futures strand of the festival, I Want to Believe, a captivating exhibition by artists David Vintiner and Gem Fletcher, poses profound questions about what it is to be human, challenging our understanding of what a body is and how we converge with technology in a world of evolving possibilities.

    On display at Atypical Gallery, the project explores of the topic of transhumanism and its implications for the future of humanity.

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    At Belfast’s Writer’s Square, One of them is Human, a conceptual work by artist Maija Tammi, presents images of three androids (human-looking robots) and possibly one human. It is not told which image depicts a human, if any. In the technological age, Tammi’s uncanny robot portraits challenge our conceptions of what it is to be ‘alive’.

    In Botanic Gardens, States of Control, an exhibition of works by artists Carola Lampe and Sam De Buysere, explores the darker side of new technologies such as state surveillance and facial recognition technology. Lampe’s work imagines a future where all aspects of our lives have been redesigned and re-constructed by AI using our personal online data, while De Buysere’s photographs present a dystopian society captured by the totalitarian control of the all-seeing surveillance state. In both, the audience is presented with a vision of a world where humanity and technology are intimately entwined.

    Two and Two make Five - by Sam De Buysere

    Alongside the exhibition programme, Belfast Photo Festival is hosting a month-long programme of online talks. The technological futures talks take place from Tuesday 22nd June – Friday 25th June and are free to attend, but donations are welcome. Topics up for discussion linked to the exhibitions include transhumanism, artificial intelligence and surveillance.

    Commenting on the festival’s return, its Director, Michael Weir said: “In recent years our festival has focused on bringing visual art to the public, pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, making it accessible and engaging. We’re very pleased to play our part in rejuvenating public spaces and galleries throughout Belfast with our 2021 programme."

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    "Arts and culture played a hugely important role in all of our lives in the past year and will continue to do so as restrictions are lifted," he added.

    “Many of the exhibitions in this year’s festival are underpinned by the particular urgency of rethinking our future in light of events of the past year, which have not only altered the course of humanity, but have also deepened and illuminated stark inequalities in society at large.”

    Belfast Photo Festival takes place online, in public spaces across Belfast and in partner institutions: Belfast Exposed, Golden Thread Gallery, Cultúrlann, University of Atypical, and The Naughton Gallery at Queens University.

    For more information on this year’s festival, visit and keep up to date on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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