“The Vibrating Man” Exhibition: Exploring Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy

“The Vibrating Man” Exhibition: Exploring Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy

Post-apocalyptic fantasies focus on the destructive effects of warfare, incorporating a dystopian government, and/or having a virus or plague / BakerJarvis via Shutterstock


With the continued success of technology, some of us might be wondering what will happen to our planet in the next years to come. This is quite a scary question given the current global issues that the Earth faces such as global warming and climate change. Will humans still exist after many decades or will all of us be extinct? It's times like these that the post-apocalyptic fantasy genre re-emerges.

For the past years, we have seen a number of books tackle post-apocalyptic fantasy, showing our planet's technological civilization collapsing. The apocalypse may be climatic, man-made, medical, eschatological or imaginative. Authors often set the plot at the end of the world, with characters trying to survive and start anew. Most of the time, novels in this genre include action, adventure, and survival.

Post-apocalyptic fantasies focus on the destructive effects of warfare, incorporating a dystopian government, dealing with environmental disasters as the source of the apocalypse, and/or having a virus or plague. It comes as no surprise that artists have wanted to incorporate this in their art as well. One of these artists is David Altmejd, who had his first ever major exhibition in Asia. 

The exhibition was launched on March 26 and ran until May 18 in the White Cube in Hong Kong. The show featured his artworks, which combined expressionism with realism. It also revolved around post-apocalyptic fantasy but in a positive way. 

David Altmejd: Life and Career

Altmejd, a contemporary Canadian artist, has been known for his imaginative sculptures of giant human bodies. Most of the time, he uses unconventional materials to create his art such as bondage gear, taxidermy, faux jewelry, and plastic flowers. He also makes sculptures that explore symbolic and complex narratives. As Altmejd explained, “I believe in the power that art has to generate meaning. I believe in the capacity of art to build its own intelligence.”

Born in 1974 in Montreal, Canada, Altmejd earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Univserité du Québec à Montréal. In 2001, he received his M.A. from the Columbia University. Throughout his career in the art industry, the artist has created highly detailed sculptures that often blur the distinction between surface and structure, interior and exterior, and figurative representation and abstraction. His works are mostly a unique mix of science fiction and gothic romanticism, and science and magic. 

According to an article by the White Cube, Altmejd described himself in his early career as a "process artist." This is because he created artworks that revealed the process of making them. At the same time, they also suggest that those processes have simply been paused in their unfolding. One of his most popular works is his vast, labyrinthine vitrines built of Plexiglas which reflect how the artist played with the aesthetic of display, design, and minimalism. 

The sculptures in the exhibition showed a potential physical disintegration in the post-apocalyptic fantasy, as well as limitless possibility / Jim Linwood via Flickr


For the past few years, Altmejd's artworks have been showcased in a number of international exhibitions in prestigious museums such as the MUDAM in Luxembourg, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal in Canada. Aside from that, he became the representative of Canada at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007.

"The Vibrating Man" Exhibition

Altmejd once described his practice as a "fascination with nature, a taste for the uncanny and excitement for unpredictable things, things that transform and that are difficult to describe." His works would always appear metamorphizing and transforming. In his recent exhibition at the White Cube entitled "The Vibrating Man," he presented a post-apocalyptic vision through combining science, magic, religion, psyched, Gothic Romanticism, and science fiction. 

According to an article by Stupid Dope, the exhibition featured multiple sculptures created by the artist which combined expressionism with realism. The sculptures displayed in the museum had heads sprouting out of each other, sharing a pair of eyes, or inverted. Altmejd used raw materials in his art, which is different from what is usually seen in works of post-apocalyptic fantasy. 

The Vibrating Man exhibition highlighted two distinct installations created by the artist. It offered a number of possibilities in their relationship to one other. Visitors would find the 'vibrating man', a life-sized figure, sitting in a lotus position as if in meditation. It was placed in a large Plexiglass section that would appear to be levitating. The other installation was called "The Orchid" which had a billow of grey smoke blown in the glass. 

The works in the exhibition referenced ideas of regeneration, evolution, and reinvention. The sculptures in the exhibition showed a potential physical disintegration in the post-apocalyptic fantasy, as well as limitless possibility. As Altmejd said, "Fake vs. real, organic vs. mineral, seductive vs. repulsive. These contrasts produce tensions, and the tensions produce energy. When energy flows through a sculpture, it becomes alive, independent, and ready to be shown."