Existing Beyond the Body

Nestor Pestana: Speculative design and the new human

Nestor Pestana, AIS-The-Infumis (film still) - Trebuchet
Nestor Pestana, AIS-The-Infumis (film still) - Trebuchet

Criticising the homogenisation of the human being, and exploring the potential for an endlessly shifting body augmented by emerging technologies, the work of Nestor Pestana taps into the zeitgeist of our turbulent age.

Pestana is a speculative designer and multimedia artist currently based in London. His work explores the links between science, design and technology to promote creative and critical thinking, as well as sharing and exchanging knowledge. Speaking of a recent project, he says:

“Biotechnologies might open up a new perception of our bodies as a malleable material, and perhaps even new forms of interactions with our environments.” Nestor Pestana, 2018

Pestana himself defies categorisation by blending scientific, philosophic and design-based approaches in his works, sometimes reminiscent of a behaviourist experiment (B. F. Skinner comes to mind). Projects such as “The Interviewee” see a young woman interrogated by a seemingly benign but ultimately stultifying system. More recently he is expanding his exploration of the body.

“My latest projects might seem a little different from “The Interviewee”. My new projects, After Information: “The Infumis”, they share a lot in common. “The Interviewee” is a protest piece, a critique to a society that sort of wants to standardise the body. “The Infumis” is a sort of response in a way; it provides a more holistic understanding of the human body and assumes its biological nature. The human body is not an isolated entity that can be precisely measured, as presented in “The Interviewee”, but a complex ecosystem that expands to the environment through layers of biodiversity: bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that work together in symbiotic relationships and that play an important role in defining who we are.” Nestor Pestana, 2018

Projects are expressed through a variety of media including film, animation, illustration and immersive and interactive installations and performances. He has completed an MA in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art. His recent exhibited highlights include Night School on Anarres at Somerset House, with work also shown at Seoul’s 2015 bio-art exhibition Sustainability: Abundance of Life and Swiss Pavilion’s School of Tomorrow at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

How do you define the body?
All sociocultural, political and technological aspects of a given time and place play a key role in the definition of the body, or at least in the way we perceive it. It is in this sense that I think post-humanism provides a robust definition: it embraces the idea of a body defined not only by its biology, but most importantly by its contemporary technologies. Our bodies are therefore in a constant state of definition. For example, in the current informational era, governed by informational technologies, data is what primarily defines our bodies; we have the urge to understand them through it. Take the human genome project: a pure translation of our materiality into a series of codes that ultimately hold the promise that one day we will take evolution fully into our own hands. Still, advances in biotechnology are providing us with another, more holistic understanding of the body: an ecosystem made of millions of organisms in symbiotic relationships, dependent on each other for survival. This also raises fundamental questions about our own nature: where does the human body begin and where does it end? And even trying to put a boundary in such a way is a pure illusion, as everything is interconnected through biological systems existing in different states of density.

In what way do you feel you’ve pushed your conception and application of the body?
Through fictional narratives and speculations.

Read this article in full in Trebuchet 4 – The Body

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