Visual Artist

Subject: Trans- and Posthumanism, Portrait

„Der Mensch ist keineswegs die Krone der Schöpfung, nicht der Endpunkt der Fauna, sondern nur eine Entwicklungsstufe in einem fortschreitenden Kontinuum.“
     - Nick Bostrom 2005:3f – A History in Transhumanist Thought

Transhumane Verstrickung

Detailgetreue Wiedergabe aus der Molekularbiologie und Sinnliches aus der Kunstgeschichte, verwoben zu einer neuen Historie, der ‚transhumanen Verstrickung‘.

Als Vorlage zur Molekular Art dienen mir die fantastischen Aufnahmen des spanischen Forschers, Francisco J. Enguita, von der Medizinischen Fakultät in Lissabon, die ich mit seiner Einwilligung verwenden darf. (Francisco J. Enguita Universiy of Lisbon – ResearchGate – our lab is interested in non coding RNAs and human desease, using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines cell, molecular and structural biology.)

Transhuman Entanglement

Detailed reproduction from molecular biology and sunsual things from art history, woven into a new history, the transhuman entanglement.

As a template for the molecular species, I use the fantastic images of the Spanish researcher, Francisco J. Enguita from the Faculty of Medicine in Lisbon, which I can use with his permission.
(Francisco J. Enguita Universiy of Lisbon – ResearchGate – our lab is interested in non coding RNAs and human desease, using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines cell, molecular and structural biology.)

Nowadays it is difficult to deny that humans began as Homo sapiens, an evolutionary offshoot of the primates.

Many parts  of the history of social science can be understood as either directly or indirectly aimed at extending the attribution of humanity to as much of Homo sapiens as possible.

Is the membership in Homo sapiens  neither sufficient nor even necessary to quality a being as human?

Transhumanism takes off at this point, opening the prospect that other beings – some animals but also complex machines – might come to occupy the status of ‚human‘ in the future, without having been a genetic offshoot of Homo sapiens.

In my Series ‚Posthuman Studies‘, I’m referring to the classic, in particular of some works by the painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and try to give them a new interpretaition, close to the posthuman time. In a figurative sense, I try to include quotes from Rosi Braidotti and Donna Haraway.

The Series ‚Posthuman Studies‘ is mixed with the Series Biotechnology: Taking down from the Molecular Sphere by well-known Spanisch researcher Francisco J. Enguita, Professor of microbiology in Lisbon.

Tatyana Leys

„Die Posthuman Series entspricht einfach dem Zeitgeist und bringt den kanonischen Werken von Ingres eine neue Dimension.“
Kuratorin: Lily Fürstenow

„The Posthuman Series simply reflects the ZEITGEIST and brings a new dimension to Ingres canonical works“
Kuratorin: Lily Fürstenow 

Juli 2021: von Ludwig Graf Westarp 

Text von Dr. phil. Lily von Fürstenow

It’s the transparency of the veil that is so appealing and decisive in the play between the natural and the monstrous. What appears see-through and crystal clear turns out to be opaque and artificially constructed. In her portraits of high society ladies after Ingres Tatyana von Leys emphasises the extreme refinement and love to detail when rendering the luxurious costumes. The artist accentuates
exterior pomp and splendor with skillfull use of white, greyish and silvery tones. Her pictorial compositions are centered around the protagonists occupying the major part of the picture. They are set in elegant non-chalant poses appearing as
natural as possible and yet they are not what they appear to be.

The feathers, the jewellery and the opulence of the fabrics lovingly rendered by the artist only help to stress the artificiality of the settings. It’s all theatrically staged. The constructed character of the settings is made evident by the use of darker
tones as the background. The opacity of the spaces surrounding the figures unlike the original Ingres portraits stresses the gaping emptiness that is menacing. The feeling of the uncanny gets even stronger due the faces of the portrayed being left
blank, with features missing, distorted or the eyes blackened or crossed out.

The conventional painting style of portraiture is literally interrupted here as if by a glitch that implies the monstrous intrusion of a machine. Transhumane Verstrickung (Transhuman Entanglements) as the title of Tatyana von Leys current exhibition at the Municipal Gallery Theodor von Hörmann in Imst goes symbolizes a dead-end of the centuries-old aspirations of mankind for perfection. Beauty,
elegance, eternal youth and health have not only been the goals of mankind but have throughout centuries been the favourite topics within the history of painting as exemplified by the portraits of Ingres, as well as by numerous other painters portraying famous beauties of their times from Rafael to Botticelli, Rubens and Cranach. Tatyana von Ley’s treatment of the portraits by Ingres is reminiscent of
the artistic practice of Francis Bacon, whose famous portraits with the artist’s signature distortions focussed on the darker psychological dramas of the portrayed. Tatyana’s series of portraits offer the monstrous side of humanity, that has been portrayed as grotesque – society threatened by extinction, distorted creatures, cyborgs. What used to be transparent and light has become opaque
and menacing.

And if in the centuries before this eternal dream of youth and elegance could be rendered by means of painting for the first time in the 21st-century contemporary technologies offer the possibility to actually make this dream come true.The recent
developments in bio-technology, robotics and artificial intelligence offer revolutionary prospects for the development of human sciences inclusive promising possibilities for those interested and especially for those who can afford it to constantly optimise themselves in order to preserve their good looks, youth and health.

All this however, as the artist shows in her portraits has the bitter taste of humanity becoming more and more dehumanised by being excessively dependent upon the new technologies, imperceivable algorithms behind the artificial intelligence and the likes advertised as scientific progress. It is not by chance that the main protagonist in Tatyana von Leys portraits is Betty Madame de Rothschild – who
was a woman of high society and whose salon was the most exquisite and desirable place to be of her times. The portrait was commissioned by her with the purpose to be displayed in this salon for the guests to admire. Jean-Louis Dominique Ingres’ this masterpiece does Madame de Rothschild justice by showing her as a stunning beauty. Tatyana von Leys in her contemporary cycle of portraits after Ingres offers us an impressive richness of interpretation and ways of seeing of this timeless masterpiece. She deconstructs the portrait offering us a
careful and thorough analysis of the each single form, questioning each detail, gesture and movement.

It is not by chance that in Tatyana’s paintings we see ladies of upper class and high society. Access to the newest advances of science and technology allowing one to optimize and upgrade oneself has always been the privilege of the rich elites increasing even more the gap between the classes: the so-called rich and the beautiful as opposed to the sick and the poor.

The gap between the perfected human species and those who cannot afford turning themselves into better versions of themselves will become dangerously huge. Painting is all about appearances and make-believe. Therefore it is of extreme importance that a contemporary woman artist takes up this topic of technological progress: biotechnology transhumanism and its affects on contemporary societies in general and particularly on women because painting as the medium has the power to reveal and to question the essence of the technological transformations and their effects upon us. As Tatyana herself puts it, she sees herself “as a representative of Posthuman-Art, which impressively examines the aesthetics of the monstrous, the hybrid and the amorphous.(…just with the means of painting) I see my series „Posthuman Studies“ as an analysis of certain works of art for the philosophical underpinning of critical posthumanism, transhumanism and metahumanism. My credo: Away from the aesthetics of the 20th century.”

On the other hand painting as an act of creation can lay bare the make-believe, fake character of this technological progress, showing the dramatic failure of humans in all respects, their turning into monsters and cyborgs. “Homo Deus” quoting Yuval Harari, is not a human becoming divine, not a divinity becoming human but a failed attempt of humanity to imitate gods in creating. Transhuman Entanglements is a highly illustrative series of studies of Ingres timeless masterpiece showing us an exceptional richness of interpretation of his portrait where the contemporary female artist, Tatyana von Leys makes it evident that in the posthuman epoch machines might finally replace mankind, with the beauty and elegance being distorted beyond recognition.

The Transformation of the Portrait de Mme. de Rothschild is my starting point.

In my Transhumane Verstrickung (I prefer the german version) I try to give a poetic version of the transhumanism. It’s a labour of bricolage, synthesizing posthumanism, cyberfeminism, materialist feminism, accelerationism, and so on.

And also in  my essays, published in German:

Das kleine Buch zum neuen Denken/Technik und Macht ist Evolution neu gedacht, ISBN 978-3-7460-5451-3

various articles for universities etc.

During the 1990s projects with the art historian and publicist Peter Weiermair

Art books:  Galerie Krinzinger Vienna: art books wwwgalerie-krinzinger-shop at / galerie-krinzinger-buch / Contributions to Hubert Schmalix, Manfred Lang, Ursula Krinzinger, Reimo Wukounig, Hannes Mienek, Tatjana Wirth (name during my first marriage)

Art books: Publications by Prof. Peter Weiermair (catalogs and articles for Art magazines)

Art funding, public and private purchases

Klocker Museum, Hall i. Tirol, Sammlung: Künstler aus Österreich nach 1945                                                      Collection:  Artists from Austria after 1945 

Kunsthaus Graz

27.05.2022 Kunsthaus Graz: DIE ZUKUNFT DES KÖRPERS, Space 04 

Christine Blättler (Universität Kiel)
Tatyana Leys (Bildende Künstlerin)
Alfred Nordmann (Technische Universität Darmstadt)
Moderation: Julia Grillmayr (Kunstuniversität Linz)
Organisation: Hildegard Kernmayer (Franzens Universität Graz) 

KWG 2022