Susanna Hertrich

Prostheses for Instincts

An investigation between artistic hypotheses and scientific experiment (2008 – 2011)


Prostheses for Instincts sits between artistic hypotheses and scientific experiment. It is an exploration of the idea of the prosthetic device that acts as emotional extension. The devices envisioned are to be worn directly on the skin. They are connected to data streams that relate to deferred dangers, e. g. stock market data, currency exchange rates, natural disasters (earthquake data) or local crime rates. When a change of incoming data is registered, the devices automatically jump into action and create haptic sensations similar to those caused by natural instincts: raised neck hair, cold shivers, goosebumps etc. This way, the devices enable people to feel data and, thus obtain a new human instinct for the abstract and deferred dangers that occur outside their natural awareness. This work builds upon a common theme in transhumanism that is the augmentation of our natural sensory experiences and thus widening the spectrum of things that we can perceive. In its various incarnations, this work proposes scenarios of transhumanity, in which machines induce human emotions.

As an installation, the works are displayed as »imaginary museum«: all artifacts and images are presented in the manner of a traditional natural history museum showcase, blending scientific language with fictional imaginaries.


»We did not approach this project as experience designers or device engineers, but instead as transhumanists. That is, we extrapolate from the current aggressive encroachment that prosthetics and social media have had upon our lives. The project has scientific aspects in testing hypotheses concerning triggering of emotion. However, in concept and approach Prostheses for Instincts design is of primary importance. In prototyping worn prosthetics which have a tight relationship with the body, both appearance and tactile design, are essential.«
Dr. Carson Reynolds (2010)



— Research collaborations —

During a residency at Tokyo University's Meta Perception Research Group in 2009, the devices' aesthetics, functionalities and ethical aspects were explored in dialogue with the resident researchers, Carson Reynolds and Alvaro Cassinelli.


— Thanks —

Thanks to Art Laboratory Berlin for hosting and supporting my solo exhibition in 2015 where this work has been a central piece.