Jenny Souter

Responding to:
Albert Rodiba, ‘Electrique’, in ‘Le Vingtieme siècle. La Vie Electrique’ (1890).

‘The Offering’; ‘The New Hand’; ‘The Corrective Procedure’; ‘The “New Eyes”’

The image that inspired me for ‘Visions of the Future’ is ‘Electrique’, illustrated in ‘Le Vingtieme siècle. La Vie Electrique’ (1890), by French illustrator and author Albert Robida. It depicts a scene from his novel where ‘he imagines an electric life of the future’.

In this picture a woman is shackled to a machine by rings of iron around her feet and neck, that produces electricity. She is turning a handle and also pressing a switch on the top of the contraption. The electricity is coming out of her hair and also powering a pole, which we can interpret as productive because of light and lightning strikes. The woman is kept in an upright position through the neck brace, in order to maintain production, in this way we can interpret her as a prisoner and the machine as a dominant force over her.

Around the time of Robida’s life span were many new inventions, some, not yet in the public domain, these were electricity (1879), the phone (1876), the phonograph (1877) and photography (1826). In light of this changing world and devices and new contributions to everyday life, Robida makes a response in his artwork and writing, exploring further possibilities of ‘change’ and how these may impact society.

An example of this is his illustration of a phonoscope, which is a precursor to ‘zoom’, a section or wall of screens that can be utilised for home entertainment and education or socialising.

There are however other signs within ‘Electrique’ that predict a darker side to ‘power’. The woman is bound to the machine, in the same way that we are interlocked with fuel sources and technology today. It could also be said that she is chained to turning the handle and producing electricity, in summary the work element of power production, similar to early farming, boundaries, wealth and yield, which enslaved humans to land and an obligation to produce [1] Potentially, she might also represent a country or concept.

The same woman, depicted in this picture, ‘The Offering’ is free and falls to the floor to look at a new gift, ‘a computer’. The person who offers it to her has a spine the woman cannot see yet, she is intent on what the man is saying, she is being pulled into ‘a pitch’ or sales speech.

The electricity pylon is behind her and still quite strong, but she wishes to be away from it and thinks that what the man is offering is a better way out. She does not consider the colour of electricity around it which depicts its own requirement for power. She listens intently to what the man is telling her of its enormous capabilities and range of uses.

In leaving behind something that she became chained to but part of, she thinks anything must be better. Her stance and position show a willingness to comply, and the man has cleverly mirrored this, shielding his spine from her. The woman is unaware of the dangers and relieved to be free of her workload, and so a new era begins.

The ‘New Hand’ is an evolvement of human physicality, coerced by our entrapment with technology and requirement to strive for prosperity. The barcode on the wrist is a bought addition for ease and better connectivity. It allows the technology to access neurons in the human for quicker informational workplace practicalities. The extra thumb was evolved to make typing a quicker experience, because the flat mouse on a laptop is below the letters.

The extended neurons in the fingertips allow for greater speed. This new product makes competitiveness in the workplace both supported and encouraged. Indeed, some larger companies are insisting all new employees have this product. The fingertips have become blue, this new phenomenon was not foreseen with the barcode but in a way implies a connection to the technology and is seen by the general public as a desirable side effect. This image was inspired by the previous picture made, ‘The Offering’ in connection to the original piece by Albert Robida.

‘The Corrective Procedure’, is a way of repairing the loss of peripheral vision. The person is strapped to a board, whilst constantly revolving screens with images are turned around the person. Algorithms have found that it was not conducive to humans to lose their peripheral sight and have encouraged all people to correct this unforeseen evolvement with this new technology.

Technology has informed us that there is an 85% chance of success with this procedure.

What would we do without them?

The new corrective procedure has found a way to intervene with genetic material, finalising the process with a second pair of eyes. This has allowed people to become more aware of their surroundings and who is watching them, inducing, and enforcing behavioural assimilations similar to American sitcoms. The Algorithms believe that this will occupy our minds and impact on our daily living routines, distracting us from reality. A side effect of this sought-after addition is of course deep paranoia, we believe because we can see more that other people will see further and above what we see. Hostility, jealousy, and resentment are seeded when it becomes apparent that there feels as if there is less space to distance ourselves and isolate to recuperate.


[1] Harari, Y, N (2011), ‘Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind’. London. Vintage