Fringe review: FLEX

‘Where does the body end and the avatar begin?’ In a series of absorbing interactive spaces, FLEX plays with the links between our physical selves and the environments we inhabit. ★★★★

Feb 15, 2023, updated Feb 16, 2023
The 'FLEX' exhibition at MOD. offers plenty of hands-on opportunities for exploration. Photo: supplied

The 'FLEX' exhibition at MOD. offers plenty of hands-on opportunities for exploration. Photo: supplied

MOD., the “futuristic museum of discovery” in the Bradley Building at UniSA’s City West campus, has a mission to showcase research that builds a deeper understanding of the world around us. Its new exhibition FLEX is being presented as an Adelaide Fringe event, though the season started in mid-January and extends to the end of November 2023.

Boundaries – how we approach and traverse them – is the central theme of FLEX.

The focus is on “the future of things closer to home – our bodies and our minds”. In “Bodification”, the first exhibit encountered on entering the building, we’re asked to consider medical and surgical possibilities that could enhance our bodies while repairing them. Could we make entirely new bodies? Video and physical displays feature examples of current and developing research related to burns and wound treatment, organ-on-chip technology, and OSCAR ­– a living organism built from human cells.

In an adjacent ground-floor gallery, “Spacious Living” situates the viewer within the solar system. Screens encircle us at two levels. Up high, space travellers explore an otherworldly landscape. Down low, touchscreens allow the viewer to zoom in and out to explore planets and moons and their positions in relation to each other and their orbits. It’s absorbing, and it quickly captures the attention.

Upstairs, there’s an invitation to test your ethical boundaries. While answering questions about what it means to live an ethical life, each response triggers a change to the canopy overhead. It’s a data sculpture that morphs in real time to reflect input from the questionnaire screen.

The exhibition is spread across multiple galleries on different levels of the museum. Towards the end of our visit, we realised there were a few areas we hadn’t yet seen (we’d done our homework, so we knew what to expect), but we were quickly oriented by a couple of the helpful MOD. staff.

Every space offers hands-on opportunities. To fully appreciate the concepts covered in FLEX, allow plenty of time to read the text that introduces and explains each exhibit. Understanding the “why” of the high-tech effects is equally as important as experiencing them.

The “blending of real research with creative ideas” achieves FLEX‘s aim of provoking new thinking about speculative futures for our bodies. It’s a wide-ranging and stimulating (literally, with one exhibit that tests our perception of pain) examination of where we draw the line.

FLEX is showing at MOD. at UniSA (Bradley Building, UniSA City West Campus, North Terrace) until November 24.

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.

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