An awareness of the limits of an enlightened reason, the costs of constant progress that is permanently threatened by regress; and knowledge, which in excess can, paradoxically, engender an imitation of knowledge or even, in extreme cases, the entropy of knowledge—these were the fears of the Age of Enlightenment. Suggestive images of ‘prisons of reason,’ labyrinths, and walls, all express pessimism; but they also carry the hope that these limits can be crossed, and thus, they encourage constant effort.

The Bathos, a print created by William Hogarth shortly before his death, is an allegory of death. It touches on the essential fear of the Enlightenment—is it possible to create a new, secular, deeply humanist morality beyond religion and religious moral systems?

The image of an ‘end’ raises the question about the end of man and the limitations of scientific progress. Robots, artificial intelligence—post-human elements—incorporate the spirit of the Enlightenment, the faith in the triumph of unrestricted science and its freedom to develop. At the same time, they inspire reflection about the self-destruction of humanity and ‘post-human’ life. In this vision, the death of the last robot in Goshka Macuga’s work means the end of the Enlightenment—its swan song.