Anna Witt takes a closer look at robotics, human enhancement, and the future of working, connecting this with questions of identity and migrant labour in Tokyo.
“While researching, I came across research and development done by Japanese startups and companies in the field of robotics, specifically on the development of exoskeletons. These are wearable, skeleton-like robots that externally brace the human body and are intended for use in heavy labour. While talking with young Nepalese workers in the Japanese auto industry during interviews I had conducted as part of earlier research, it emerged that, for many, the motivation to relocate to Japan went hand in hand with an interest in Japanese pop culture and manga.” (From the artist statement)
Witt’s project combines these two aspects: Together with the young Nepalese workers, her plan is to use the car parts they produce to develop sculptural prototypes for exoskeletons based on the role models of manga and cosplay. She had planned for these to be combined with interviews. However, it was not possible to carry out the project due to Japan’s Covid-19 entry restrictions, still in effect through late 2022.
*Astro Boy is a legendary Japanese manga that influenced the technology-loving attitude of entire generations.
Research image, Exoskeleton/鉄腕アトム(Astro Boy), 2022