For summer 2012, the Wellcome's 'Superhuman' exhibition looks at the history of mankind's efforts to enhance physical performance and athletic ability, with a nod to the achievements of elite athletes at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From an early prosthesis, found in an ancient Egyptian tomb, to the latest attempts to connect artificial limbs to the nervous system, the show looks at a range of enhancements, including aids to sight and hearing, such as the earliest spectacles and ear trumpets and recent developments in the use of nano- and biotechnology. The show opens with a playful look at what constitutes an enhancement, from everyday objects such as glasses and false teeth to sex aids and iphones, and investigates the benefits and side effects of their use. A focus is the long history of prosthetics, both as enabling devices and covers for society's discomfort with missing body parts. Artefacts include a nineteenth-century silver nose attached to spectacles for a women disfigured by syphilis; there's also footage of prosthetic legs being parachuted into Afghanistan in Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film 'Kandahar'. The third instalment of Matthew Barney's 'Cremaster' series sees model, athlete and double amputee Aimee Mullins performing roles involving beautiful and metamorphic prostheses, which grant surreally envisaged superpowers. Other video works include Dorothy Cross's 'Eyemaker', which follows an ocularist's creation of a glass eye. Fantasies of human transformation are explored through comic characters such as Dr Octopus. The history of adaptions made in pursuit of athletic advantage is illustrated by exhibits including the patents of Nike's early waffle sole trainers and a display about the rise of isotonic drinks. Look out for an associated programme of events and participatory activities.
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