Title: Post-Humanism and Cosmetics
Artist: Lauren Simons
The work deals with how as technology advances, the boundary between organic and mechanic is becoming increasingly obscure. Living organisms are merging with machines, or more generally technology, in new ways that were once thought to be impossible. As we become more reliant on machines, there is a movement toward post-humanism that holds the idea that the body, in its organic form, is limited in its potential and that the integration of technology as an extension of the body is not only inevitable but necessary. This leaves one to ponder, with such rapid advancement and the age of the machines upon us, will the corporeal body be enough? As discussed through out the quarter, there have been many scientists and artists working around these questions regarding the body as becoming obsolete in the age of technology. One of the early pioneers of this notion of post humanism that we studied was Australian performance artist Stelarc and his work entitled Third Ear. In this project Stelarc had a prosthetic ear implanted into his forearm that is fully functional in its ability to hear and transmit sound. The work is about replication of a bodily structure, relocating it and thus re-wiring it for alternative functions. It manifests the human desire to deconstruct our evolutionary architecture and exemplifies this integration of technology and the body. However it does so in a way that does not completely render the body idle, but rather presents the body as an extended operational system. Stelarc writes, “It is no longer a matter of perpetuating the human species by reproduction, but of enhancing the individual by redesigning. What is significant is no longer male-female intercourse but human-machine interface. The body is obsolete.”
Make up is the chosen medium for this piece because in the same way that Stelarc’s third ear exemplifies technology as an extension of the body, make-up, although not mechanical and much less invasive, can be considered a technology that enhances or redesigns the body. Just like any other technology make up has evolved and changed over time as we have become more technologically advanced. Not only have there been great advancements in pre-existing formulas, application tools, and packaging, but there are also a vast amount of new products that have been created in response to the ever-changing beauty standards in society as well as advancements in other areas of technology that have greatly influenced how make up has evolved. For example with advent of things like social media, high definition, and even the change over from film to digital has greatly revolutionized the make up industry. For example, the introduction of Panchromatic and Technicolor film in the 1930s directly contributed to the development of a revolutionary product that changed the make up industry forever. “Pan Cake” was patented in 1929 by Max Factor and Company, a popular American make up line, and its revolutionary formula integrated the same Panchromatic technology used in Technicolor film, into a compressed powder foundation that when applied leaves a slight sheen on the skin that reflects light and therefore compensates for any darkness or discoloration that was found to appear on film when using products that were not panchromatic. Similar light reflective technologies are used in make-up products today that are specifically designed make the skin appear flawless and natural on film, even at the high levels of definition that modern day digital film can achieve. Not only have cinematic and studio make up changed in response to technological advancement, but every day make up products and trends have also vastly changed. As mentioned earlier, social media such as instagram has not only advanced the cosmetic industry in terms of better marketing and expansion of brands, but has also changed society’s beauty standards. With our personal lives are becoming more and more publicized, there is more pressure to look conventionally beautiful and an overall increase in the general concern of individual appearance.
I present this piece as series of four make-up looks, the first three of which were created to exemplify the changes in beauty standards over time and how the make up industry has evolved in response to these changes, as well as in response to other technological advancements that have influenced the cosmetic industry. All of the looks represent the most popular make up trends of a particular era, and in order to create them I only used products that would have been available, or ones similar, during that particular time. The first piece was inspired by the 1920’s. This was a period of renewal that sparked an increase in consumer growth and in the liberation of women. With a flourished economy women becoming more active independent members of society, the cosmetic industry, sky rocketed during this time period. These historical changes are exemplified in the make up trends of the era. Dark eyeliner, bold red lips, and pink cheeks exemplify how women began to take advantage of their new-found freedoms. Powder foundation, rouge (cream blush applied with the finger tips on the apples of the cheeks), and eye kohl (an early eyeliner) were the products used during this era. Make up was applied sparingly and was used to enhance natural features. The second piece was inspired by the 1950s, which was the era of the color cinema. As mentioned earlier, changes in film greatly influenced the cosmetic industry. Foundation was applied in thick layers in order to smooth out any lines or imperfections. For this particular look I used a compact powder foundation with light reflective technologies, much like that created by Max Factor as mentioned earlier. Dramatic eye-liner on the top eye lid, heavy mascara, and shimmer eye shadows that were meant to make the eyes appear bigger and brighter, were characteristic trends. (Mascara did not come in a tube at the time but came as a block that you applied with a brush, however I could not find one so I used a tube.) Women also used lip liner to emphasize and highlight their lips making them look larger as well as filling in their eyebrows for a more structured bold appearance. These dramatic enhancements of certain facial features were initially meant for film quickly became mainstream and are representative of how advancements in film have influenced make up and on beauty standards. From comparison of this look to the one prior, you can see how makeup trends had begun to shift from a natural application to a much bolder and exaggerated appearance. You can also see that there was an increase in the type and quality of products available that further exemplifies how make up as a technology has evolved. The third piece is inspired by what today’s make up trends look like. Heavily contoured cheekbones, defined symmetrical eyebrows, and perfectly sculpted lips are current trends. There is also more than triple the amounts of products available on the market today, not to mention numerous brands and application tools that were not available during the eras that inspired the previous pieces. For example there are now pore reducing foundation primers, concealers, HD foundations, dark spot correctors, beauty blenders and possibly hundreds of other products all meant to give the appearance of a flawless complexion. These trends advocate for an over all appearance that is very structured and symmetrical and are not meant to merely enhances ones features but essentially changes them completely. By this you can see how greatly the make up industry has evolved, and along with is so has the conventional standard of beauty. Sure women have always used make up as a way to enhance their features, however one can argue that as we continue to advance in technology, make up trends and products have evolved away from a standard that emphasizes enhancement of natural beauty, toward one that advocates more for artificiality and perfection. This change in beauty standards can also be seen in the expansion of other cosmetic technologies such as plastic surgery and botox. Again, there is this notion of changing and redesigning the body in this post-humanist merge with technology.
1920’s Inspired Look:
1950’s Inspired Look:
Look inspired by current make up trends:
When you consider how greatly technology has advanced in such as short amount of time and these ideas of post humanism and of the body becoming obsolete, you can see that these ideas are closely related to some of the more recent topics that we have studied regarding artificial life and robotics. The final make up look in the series is presented as an abstract representation of a human being as a machine. This is meant to make a statement about this movement toward the merging or organic with mechanic and desire to create artificial life and machines that are meant to emulate, and in some cases replace the organic corporeal body. In my blog posts I reviewed the work of Yves Klien and his artificial life project Octofungi, which is an autonomous robotic sculpture through which Klein contemplates the definition of life and what differentiates between animate and inanimate objects. I also researched projects done by the performance group Ullanta Performance Robotics, whose work delves into the field of emotional robotics and means to show that robots are no longer passive slaves but rather intelligent sensing communicating entities. What I want to emphasize by this last piece is that as we become more reliant on machines and robots, there seems to be a decline in the human necessity.
While Stelarc is advocating for technology as being only an extension of the body, much of the work being done in the field of robotics seeks to ultimately create a new one, a mechanical body that in the future may render the organic body obsolete. From this an intense debate arises around the question of whether advancements in robotics are overall advantageous or detrimental to human life. There is this notion that technological advancement is equivalent to progress, however can reliance on technology be considered real progress or are we inadvertently dooming ourselves to a future in which we are human beings are redundant? Is progress an illusion? The critical question here is at what point do we become too reliant on technology?
To sum up, this project is meant to show that as we become more technologically advanced there seems to be a movement toward the merging of the natural body with technology. Where as Stelarc’s Third Ear is an extreme example of this, make up can be considered a less invasive form of technology that exemplifies this merge in every day scenarios. While post humanism advocates that technology be used as an extension of the body, work done in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence seek to create new entirely mechanical bodies that in the future may render the human body obsolete. This poses questions regarding whether or not these advances can actually be considered progress or is this merge of organic and mechanic potentially harmful? Furthermore the work exemplifies how beauty standards have changed as technology has advanced and shows how this has contributed to the evolution of the cosmetics. A question that arises is, do societal beauty standards change in response to advancements in make-up? Or has make up evolved in response to constantly changing beauty standards. Perhaps both. In this way the work brings up broader social issues regarding who and what sets the standard for beauty and in what ways has the cosmetic industry contributed to this standard? Is there a double standard?
A second stage of the project that I would like to add, but do not have the time frame or tools to do so, would be to photograph the different looks using a lens from each time period to physically show how advancements in film have forced make up to change.
Stephen Wilson, Information Arts