21.06.19 – 06.10.19

Ark of Imperfection





What would we do if the age of perfection finally arrived and we were disappointed by the results? What if we came to miss those human imperfections that previously brought colour and grit to our everyday existence and we suddenly felt an urgent need to recover them? The Ark of Imperfection seeks to preserve such traces of our present imperfections as a lasting counterpoint to the perfection that may arrive one day soon. The Ark of Imperfection invites contributions from the public: a biological sample, and a quotation, a story or an image that captures a personal aspect of one’s all too human imperfection. It underscores the importance of storing the imperfections people value most. The biological samples will be locked away for the duration of the exhibition in tubes, and secured into one of 55 wooden panels that together constitute the Ark of Imperfection, while the written contributions will be open for inspection. The Ark of Imperfection asks that we all participate in writing a new mythology of perfection.


Maurizio Toscano’s present research as a lecturer in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education concerns the intersection between art, science and philosophy, particularly as it pertains to practices in science education and communication. His philosophical work deals with the metaphysics of science and its connection to aesthetics. Maurizio has drawn upon his past work as a scientist (PhD is in astrophysics) in collaborations with artists (e.g. Syzygy), in exhibiting original works (most recently in Flow at Counihan Gallery Brunswick, Australia), and curating student art-science exhibitions. Maurizio lectures in science education and communication, climate change, philosophy of education and environmental education.


The artist acknowledges the meticulous work of Sam Buckley in the fabrication of the Ark.

Deeper Dive

Alison Fernandes

Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin (University of Dublin) specifically focusing on metaphysics and philosophy of science.

Ark of Imperfection asks you to leave behind a piece of yourself—an imperfection—a time capsule of your present self. Relinquishing imperfections might seem like a great idea. But the work also leads us to ask, what do we lose in our quest for self-enhancement? And how do we identify with ourselves if we’re forever crafting ourselves into something new?

Philosophers and psychologists have spent a lot of time thinking about how we relate to our ‘past’ and ‘future selves’. When you think about the person you’re going to be, how you’re going to look, behave, and what will happen to you, you’re probably thinking about yourself optimistically. We think we’ll behave more rationally in the future than we have in the past, and generally be more lucky, admirable and able. By contrast, we tend to think about our past selves more realistically, and more negatively. Some think that’s because we tend to identify less strongly with our past selves. We view them like we would other people—from the perspective of an outside observer—without the optimism that infuses our thinking about ourselves.

But is this reasonable? And can we really leave our past selves behind so easily? Some philosophers argue that imperfection is essential to who we are. J. G. Fichte, for example, writing in the 18th century, describes humans as a kind of activity—a continual striving for rationality and perfection, but one that must forever fall short of its ideal. If perfection were reached, activity would cease, and we would cease to be human at all. Plato, similarly, describes us as being caught between the earthly and divine—we’re like messengers, shutting between the two realms, ‘always living with Need’. To achieve divinely status would be to become something else—and cease to be the kind of in-between beings that we are. So, whatever you’d like to leave behind on the Ark of Imperfection, ask: is it any less a part of who you are? And might your attempt to leave it behind be part of what makes you truly yourself?

So, whatever you’d like to leave behind on the Ark of Imperfection, ask: is it any less a part of who you are? And might your attempt to leave it behind be part of what makes you truly yourself?