A boring description of our inspiration for the application...
The application is Inspired by Danish film director Jorgen Leth’s 1967 short film The Perfect Human, and aims to update Leth’s examination of human perfection. By critically examining the measures of perfection apparent in contemporary society, both the film and the application question the parameters of perfection that drive the existential nature of constructing self-hood.
In the film, Leth, simultaneously narrator and objective scientist, investigated how the perfect human of 1967 functions — how the beautiful Danish man and woman adhered to superficial societal ideals of perfection in the 1960s. After enumerating a number of “perfect functioning” activities, the movie’s focus pivoted during a “very delicious” dinner, when the woman mysteriously disappeared. Her absence provoked a strange turn of events. Leth narrated: “What is the perfect human thinking? … About the food he eats, happiness, love, death?” And to answer, the young man, while chewing, contemplated: “Why is joy so quickly done? …Why did you leave me? Why are you gone?”
With this line of existential questioning, Leth was no longer investigating the qualities of perfection, but rather asking: What is perfect(ly) human? He urged us to consider the universal, timeless, and existential themes that make humans human. The smiling, lighthearted, handsome young man is — regardless (and it is this word “regardless” that makes the word “perfect” so perfect) of the era he lives in, the accumulation of his grooming, his age, his experience, his knowledge — his lack of knowledge, his confusion and the resulting loneliness. This confusion stems from the unknowable questions of existence, from the desire to understand the stand alone “I” that he is. As a result, he longs for companionship and acceptance among others as a validation of ‘self’ in the face of inevitable death. And so, as the perfect human must, he asks questions whose answers, if they even existed, would offer no comfort.
The PHA comments on this quest. It turns this existential questioning into a number — a number that has meaning only in relation to other numbers. And though each number represents a possible sating of the need for validation, the number is distanced from its meaning and the potential for companionship that it represents. As the user would only be interested in his or her score, in winning the game, he or she would forget that on the other side of the number is an interaction with another user — another human. Leth’s young hero, the perfect man, revealed his perfection by his fear of loneliness and constant questioning. The theme that defined us in the 1960s is unveiled in the PHA, by the application’s ability to bring to the forefront the difficulties of negotiating “real” companionship in the digital landscape.
By tracking and quantifying a user’s connected actions, the application updates the desire of Leth’s perfect human for companionship. And in imitating Leth, the application doesn’t offer the user simply a quantification of acceptance, but the opportunity to confront the fear of loneliness and death in our tethered world.
The Perfect Human Application is a facetious comment on the ritual of coping with the existential fear of being alone, and how we construct value about our self-worth in a landscape evermore drastically shaped by digital media. It reveals an ideal user whose focus is on quantity not quality, on scoring rather than experiencing, thereby conflating companionship and solitude. The perfect human application user — in an attempt to understand herself relative to others, in an attempt to define her identity in society — focuses only on the numbers, and her relative score. The application mocks our pleasure as we receive more and more comfort from the number of friends we collect and curate on Facebook and other social media sites.