I’m still going through all the photos from Modernism Week Fall Preview (we hit a lot of houses), but I was really excited to share this set of photos with you as soon as possible, because it features The Babies by artist David Cerny.
These babies have been in downtown Palm Springs for a while now, but it wasn’t until Modernism Week Fall Preview (and the reveal of the Walker Guest House Replica in the same location) that you could actually go down to ground level, where the installation is laid out.
Getting up close and personal to the babies was absolutely thrilling for me for quite a few reasons. First, you don’t fully realize the scale until you are right next to them. It’s only then that you truly realize how giant and looming they are. Secondly, I loved seeing the details of the faces (which Cerny replaced with barcodes) up close.
The difference between viewing these works from afar vs up close is really interesting too. As Cerny’s basic thesis is a commentary on the dehumanization of society, you experience this dehumanization from two different perspectives. From far away, the babies almost come across as an infestation of some kind, reminiscent of ants, or locusts even. The sheer number and anonymity bring across this aspect of dehumanization (even of a human form) quite well. But up close, the surreal, larger-than-life scale takes away from the humanity differently, offering up the same feelings of a potentially overpowering threat, but this time in size as opposed to numbers.
It’s funny, but when I originally wrote the subtitle for this post, I was going to write: ‘The non-architectural highlight of Modernism Week Fall Preview.’ However when I re-read it, I realized this wasn’t quite true. Yes, it is true in the sense that the Cerny babies are not literal pieces of architecture and therefore not architectural. But if you think of the word architectural more along the lines of meaning ‘designed’ or ‘constructed,’ then it actually aligns with our reality in kind of a terrifying way…
Because if you think about it, this is exactly the future that we are designing for ourselves. From thumb prints to face scanning to China’s new social credit system (and let’s not even start on social media in general), these babies represent exactly what the future holds for not just us, but for the world our babies are and future babies will be born into.
I’ve always found it interesting that when I see negative implications for myself in relationship to a specific behavior, it’s not enough to always motivate me to stop (at least not right away - I’m looking at you, pizza). But when I see negative implications for those who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly, children, or socially marginalized, I am far more compelled to make a change immediately. In this light, seeing babies be completely dehumanized really feels like a wakeup call.
For more information on the Cerny Babies, check out Hohmann Fine Art right here.
And more on Modernism Week Fall Preview coming soon!
Photos by Nikko DeTranquilli