Alter + Ego

30 June – 29 October 2022

Karl Lagerfeld - A Portrait of Dorian Gray

Karl Lagerfeld, A Portrait of Dorian Gray, 2004, 8 Fotografien (Acryldruck), je 70 x 50 cm, © The Estate of Karl Lagerfeld, Courtesy Steidl

The “immortality gene” has been discovered. Epigenetics offer new opportunities for extending the human life span. Healthcare electronics and exoskeletons seem to be determining our future. Developments in robotics enable optimized performance. The “Alter + Ego” exhibition presents artistic approaches to illuminate the promises of “human enhancement” in its various facets and explores the question of how we come to terms with aging and the ephemeral nature of life itself.


Alter + Ego
© BR Fernsehen, 3. August 2022, Gaby Weber

(Video: 54.31 MB)


Maybe it’s all just a mistake: physical degeneration, mental deterioration, old age, death? After all, the human imagination offers a wealth of ways out of escaping physical transience. Snow White preserved her beauty by sleeping for years, Dorian Gray allowed his portrait to age instead of himself, Icarus overcame the limitations of his skeleton with prosthetic wings. Mankind’s desire to escape bodily constraints is age-old. And now, due to advances in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, it seems more within reach than ever. The discovery of the “immortality gene” (FoxO3), potential increases in telomerase activities to slow down aging and new findings in epigenetics provide hope for a significant extension of our lifespans and that of our descendants. This promise is supported by advances in wearable healthcare electronics such as smartwatches to monitor health, fitness rings that can predict the right time for conception, or shoe insoles that document balance. Prolonged, upgraded lives seem to be the future. Trackers and apps help to measure bodily functions with increasing precision, detect infirmities early and reward a healthy lifestyle appropriately – data abuse factored in. Offers for self-improvement coaching and cosmetic surgery are booming. Should our physical strength diminish, state-of-the-art prostheses and developments from robotics are available. Exoskeletons expand the spine, arms and legs and enable physical fitness well into old age.

Techno-utopians from Silicon Valley see old age as a surmountable disease and the human body in its current form as prone to errors and marked by tedious maintenance. Google’s biotechnology division “Calico”, for example, is intended to help solve the aging process. The fantasies of the transhumanists go one step further. They see humanity on the brink of the next stage of evolution and believe that, in the future, human consciousness can be uploaded to the cloud and parallel bodies can be developed using robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Until that time comes, cryonics, the freezing of the head or entire body in “cephalon boxes” or aluminum capsules filled with liquid nitrogen, presents a temporary solution.

So can the all-clear signal be sounded? Will medicine and technology soon promise us not only an increase in life expectancy, but even immortality? That would be nice, wouldn't it? The “Alter + Ego” exhibition presents artistic approaches to illuminate the promises of "human enhancement" in its various facets and explores the question of how we come to terms with aging and the ephemeral nature of life itself. After all, didn't a tiny virus in the Corona pandemic bring our modern fantasies of the fountain of youth back down to the hard ground of reality and show that experiences involving aging and death, such as caring, saying farewell and mourning remain elemental, deeply human emotions that define our species?


Marina Abramović, Mona Ardeleanu, Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger, Julian Billmair, Ulrich Blum, eres/colliders, Sibylle Fendt, Alex Van Gelder, Karl Lagerfeld, Stefan Panhans, Elisa Giardina Papa, Daniel Preisler, Jeremy Shaw, Thomas Silberhorn, Taryn Simon, Superflux, Juergen Teller, Janina Totzauer, Max Weisthoff

Thomas Silberhorn, Flow 2, 2015, Treppenlift, Schienensystem, Maße variabel, © Thomas Silberhorn, Courtesy the artist, Foto: ERES Stiftung, Thomas Dashuber

Stefan Panhans, UP! UP!! UP!!!, Alex Van Gelder, Louise Bourgeois at home in 2009, Foto: ERES Stiftung, Thomas Dashuber



Alter + Ego. Die neue Ausstellung in der ERES Stiftung
© Bayern2, kulturWelt, 29. Juni 2022, Barbara Knopf

(Audio: 8.98 MB)

Wie wir mit dem Altern umgehen. Alter + Ego in der ERES Stiftung
© m94/5, SektMate, Das Kulturmagazin, 3. September 2022, Alina Neuper

(Audio: 3.35 MB)