Week 6 Response (Midterm): A Discussion of Life in the Face of Cancer

Countless lives are afflicted by the harrowing reach of cancer. In fact, our present society has dedicated large amounts of resources to research, to organizations, to programs aimed to sustain the lives of those afflicted and minimize the number of those that succumb to cancer. Artist Beatriz da Costa, before losing her life to metastasized brain cancer in 2012, explored the dynamics of this culture around cancer in the context of the scientific laboratories studying cancer. Before her death, da Costa finished a work called Dying for the Other, in which she documents her fight against breast cancer alongside the scientific research being done to combat breast cancer. Completed in 2011, Dying for the Other is a 12 minute triptych video—a three-part video displayed side by side on three separate panels—that consists of intercutting footages of transgenic mice in the laboratory setting and da Costa herself[1]. Both subjects are afflicted with breast cancer but their situations are typically understood in tremendously different contexts. Da Costa splices together scenes of the transgenic mice being used as test subjects in the laboratory with scenes from her own life as a breast cancer patient in order to juxtapose but also liken the life of the mice test subjects to her own life and struggle against breast cancer. Through such comparisons, artist Beatriz da Costa explores, amongst other ideas, science’s influence in the way we attribute value to life, the commonality of suffering and mortality in life, and the implications of the costs and sacrifices made to sustain life.

[1] http://www.creative-capital.org/projects/view/311

-Connie Paik

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