Ulrike Schmitz lives and works in Berlin, Germany. She employs photography as a means of systematic search for an understanding of phenomena, drawing on conceptual approaches used in scientific research. She has currently been selected for reGeneration3 at MusÃ©e de lâ€™ElysÃ©e, Lausanne, and PLAT(T)FORM at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland. In 2015 she was nominated for the Voies Off Prize, Arles, France. Her work has been exhibited internationally, e.g. Museo Amparo, Puebla, Mexico; Art Foundation metamatic:taf, Athens; German Russian Museum, Berlin; Historical Museum, Sofia; Head On Photo Festival, Sydney and Photoville, New York.
â€œHuman is a rope stretched between animal and super human (Ãœbermensch) ... .â€œ
(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche)
The genome of Neanderthals â€“ a human species that became extinct 39,000 years ago â€“ has been decoded in 2013. Since then, scientists have envisaged its synthetic reproduction within a human stem cell that could be incorporated into a human surrogate mother. The (re)birth of a Neanderthal clone has hereby become a real future scenario.
Ulrike Schmitz follows this trail in The Missing Link treating it as the point of departure for a visual reflection on how our place in evolutionary history is changing. We were passive objects of natural forces and become more and more active creators. Due to the fast developments in biotechnology, in particular genetic engineering, it becomes a reality that mankind is able to optimize itself physically and mentally. Transhumanists predict that humans are about to make the next crucial step in evolution.
As early as 1929 J.D. Bernal, scientist and transhumanist, wrote: â€œAlthough it is possible that man has far to go before his inherent physiological and psychological make-up becomes the limiting factor to his development, this must happen sooner or later, and it is then that the mechanized man will begin to show a definite advantage. Normal man is an evolutionary dead end; mechanical man, apparently a break in organic evolution, is actually more in the true tradition of a further evolution.â€
The Missing Link is a metaphorical documentation that follows the real scientific steps of the Neanderthalâ€™s recreation. These steps symbolize as well the development of human science in general: 1. Decoding nature (the Neanderthal genome)
2. Copying nature (reproducing the Neanderthal genome artificially)
3. Creating human-made nature (the Neanderthal clone).
The project was realized in cooperation with Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany; Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu, Estonia; Medtronic Corporation, USA; Otto Bock HealthCare and REBIRTH - Center for Regenerative Medicine, Hannover Medical School, Germany.