Thomas Thwaites is a British designer whose work examines the interaction of science, technology and economics in shaping our present society, and possible futures. Thwaites’ work has been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum for their permanent collection, and is exhibited frequently and internationally, including at the National Museum of China, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Science Museum (London), 21_21 Design Sight (Tokyo) and the Zero 1 Biennial (California). His first book, The Toaster Project, published by Princeton Architectural Press to critical acclaim, describes Thwaites’ attempt to make an electric toaster from scratch. It has been translated into Korean and Japanese editions. His second book, written about his project to take a holiday from being human by becoming a goat, is called GoatMan: How I took a holiday from being human, and was published in 2016, and translated in to Norwegian, Korean and Japanese. He is currently a visiting assistant professor in Industrial Design at Rhode Island School of Design.
A holiday from being human (GoatMan)
Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it. He has to find principles of action and decision-making which replace the principles of instincts. He has to have a frame of orientation which permits him to organize a consistent picture of the world as a condition for consistent actions. He has to fight not only against the dangers of dying, starving, and being hurt, but also against another danger which is specifically human: that of becoming insane. In other words, he has to protect himself not only against the danger of losing his life but also against the danger of losing his mind.
Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology (1968), p. 61.
Wouldn’t it be nice to take a holiday from being a human? A holiday from the existential angst, worry and stress of life as a self-aware mortal being. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to enjoy fresh green grass, to gallop across the landscape, to be free from time?
Yes. So I tried to become a goat to escape the angst inherent in being a human. The project became an exploration of how close modern technology can take us to fulfilling an ancient human dream: to take on characteristics from other animals. But instead of the ferocity of a bear, or the perspective of a bird, the characteristic most useful in modern life is something else; being present in the moment perhaps.
With this work I wanted to present an alternative aesthetic for the vision of the post-human; a little twee, a little homely, a reminder that there are many viewpoints, many perspectives, and many futures.
Anyway I ended up in the Alps, on four legs, at a goat farm, with a prosthetic rumen strapped to my chest, eating grass, attempting to become a goat.
Designer, researcher Rhode Island School of Design — UK/US