Ergonomic Futures is a multi-part project, by artist Tyler Coburn, which asks questions about contemporary “fitness” through the lens of speculative evolution. Specifically, this work comes out of Coburn’s research into the field, as well as his interviews with paleoanthropologists, ergonomists, evolutionary biologists, and genetic engineers. To each he has asked: What are future scenarios for imagining new types of human bodies, and how might this thought experiment cast relief on conversations about body normativity in the present day? Together, they have discussed everything from genetic engineering and the founder effect to postplanetary living, all of which may contribute to marked differences in how we biologically, philosophically, and legally define the “human.”

Practically, this project takes two forms. First, Coburn and New York architects Bureau V have designed functional, ergonomic seats for different future bodies. The initial presentations of these seats are in the 11th Gwangju Biennale and Faisons de l’inconnu un allié (Joining Forces with the Unknown), organized by Fondation d’enterprise Galeries Lafayette. Following these exhibitions, the seats will find long-term use in art and natural history museums. Click here and scroll right to see images of the existing seats.

Second, Coburn has collaborated with designers Luke Gould and Afonso Martins on this website of short stories, which will evolve over the years. New stories may appear, and existing stories may be edited or deleted. A given story can have one or several versions that continue to change in quantity.

Design-wise, this site mimics the structure of Aristotle’s “Great Chain of Being,” a vertical diagram for the heavens and earth, which is one of the oldest evolutionary models. Its typography is informed by the atavism of language and letterforms: particularly, the similarity of obsolete alphabets, characters, and glyphs to the futuristic runes and symbols of sci-fi culture. Finally, the writing is typeset in OSP Foundry’s Libertinage, an open source font created by copying and pasting parts of Linux Libertine, yielding 27 variations of the original typeface. These variations are randomly applied to each story and its corresponding versions, such that they evolve visually as well as textually.

While designed to function on all platforms and devices, Ergonomic Futures is best explored on a desktop browser set to full screen.

Curators: Anna Colin and François Quintin (Paris), Maria Lind and Margarida Mendes (Gwangju)
Web designers: Luke Gould, Afonso Martins
Editor: Joanna Fiduccia
Seat Design: Bureau V
Seat Production: Dirk Meylaerts, Aude Mohammedi Merquiol, Creaform (Paris), Yong Chul Kim (Gwangju)

Special thanks to Flora Katz, Laurence Perrillat, Gabrielle Jaegle, Marie-Aurore De Boisdeffre, Mihyun Jang, Yunkyung Kam, Yeonjung Noh, Jaeyong Park, Jeong Heonki, Claudia Pestana, Shara Bailey, Jonathan Olivares, Manny Halpern, Ryan Raaum, Seth Shipman, Evelyne Heyer, Guillaume Lecointre, Philippe Morel, and Pierre Cassou-Nogues.