Market, medicine


Ivan Sariy
Abacus, 2021

Wood, iron, revolving mechanism
56×100×50 cm
Courtesy of the artist

Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—a precursor to science fiction published at the beginning of the 19th century—revolutionary experiments for directing the human body, including the creation of new life, have become one of the genre’s favourite themes. The further advancement of science (in particular, medicine and genetics) in the 20th century gave a new speculative impetus to the subject, which was spread widely by popular fiction and films. Often, these works examined the unpredictable consequences of such experiments, alongside the benefits they bring: stories of radical “enhancement” of the human body, the development of superpowers, and the extension of youth result in new forms of inequality, exploitation, and control.

Ivan Seriy’s work lies in the territory of such dystopias. He posits that in the future humanity may develop a technology to extend life by a given number of years. This extremely popular service will, however, be very expensive and therefore accessible only to privileged groups. Seriy’s kinetic sculpture Abacus is a symbol and artifact of such a world. A machine in the shape of a DNA double helix rotates, shifting wooden beads from side to side and summing up, with a monotonous sound, the amount of time the customer has left. Observing the COVID-19 pandemic, Seriy is concerned about a future in which access to the most advanced medical technology may become a luxury rather than a public good.