FINAL: Post humanism and Cosmetics

Title: Post-Humanism and Cosmetics

Artist: Lauren Simons

Location: Computer/Home

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 The body is obsolete.”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:

IMG_4791 IMG_4809

1950’s Inspired Look:

DSCN0802 DSCN0809

Inspiration  Photo:

marilyn-monroe-makeup-tutor

Look inspired by current make up trends:

DSCN0832  DSCN0844

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.

Final Piece:

DSCN0846 DSCN0845

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.

 

Sources:

http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/564/posthuman-exploring-the-obsolescence-of-the-corporeal-body-in-contemporary-art

http://stelarc.org/?catID=20242

http://www.addictedcosmetics.co.uk/site/images/infotheque/pdf/Make%20up%20Through%20the%20Decades.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Factor

Stephen Wilson, Information Arts

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Week 10: Rachel Mayeri’s Primate Cinemas

This week I found Rachel Mayeri’s work with Primate Cinemas extremely interesting. In particular I enjoyed the film titled Apes as Family. I found that although the film was intended to be dramatic, as a human viewer, the idea of people disguised as apes and acting as apes living in a human environment is slightly satirical and borderline comedic. Furthermore the studio effects make up even gave the film a kind of eerie and, for lack of a better word, creepy aura when one considers the stark similarities that humans share with apes. The film Planet of the Apes could not escape my mind.

giphy

Anyways… what makes this work even more interesting is the fact that these films are actually intended for ape audiences rather than humans. Mayari collaborated with comparative psychologist Dr. Sarah-Jane Vick on this project to analyze the chimpanzees behavior to different types of media. Although the results were inconclusive, Vick did make interesting discoveries that may provide some insight on how different genders respond to different media and what types of media apes are drawn to. She found that females preferred television more than males and that several chimps were interested in human actors in chimp suits having sex. Some chimps were lured to the television by Teletubbies and kettle drums. In one case a male responded to watching other chimp’s “display behavior” by displaying similar behavior himself – hooting and hitting the monitors. Although the film evoked a number of different responses from different apes, what was clear was the chimp’s fascination with cinema. I find it amazing that although humans and apes evolutionarily diverged over millions of year ago, we are still able to find ways in which we can connect with these animals and show that they are not much different from us in terms of their social, cognitive and emotional lives. Below is a trailer for the film Apes as family, as well as a video that shows the making of the Primate Cinema.

I think that Mayari’s representation of people dressed as apes in an urban setting purposefully alludes to the similarities between apes and humans and forces the viewer to draw parallels between themselves and the apes that I do not think most people usually think about. As human beings we have a tendency to view ourselves as separate from all things that are not human rather than associating with them as fellow species of a planet. Mayari’s work is a reminder that in fact all living things can be traced back to a common ancestor, even bacteria and other microorganisms share a common ancestor with humans. With that being said interspecies projects and studies such as this can reveal possible correlations in the behavior and interactions of other animals and humans. This work in particular raises larger questions regarding how media affects human beings. Mimicked behavior by the apes of the actions seen on screen, show that imagery and media are not passively experienced. Could these observations correlate into human perceptions of media and imagery? The medias influence on society is a very current and hot topic around which many debates arise regarding what types of media are more impactful on human societies and in what way do these forms of media affect us and even more importantly our behavior? Are they affecting us in a positive way? A negative way? Maybe even both? There are numerous studies surrounding the affects of violence in the media on crime rate for example.

-Lauren Simons

Week 8: Robots

This week the topic that most interested me was robotics. Like many of the things we have studied during the course, robots, once an idea exclusive to the arts and cinema, are now becoming commonplace. Since the introduction of the robot, its definition has greatly changed. As discussed in the textbook, the word robot comes from the Czech word robota that means “obligatory work or servitude.” Robots were initially thought to be artificial humanoids, or human-like beings, created to perform human functions as tools or forms of “cheap-labor.” Webster defines a robot as “an automatic device that performs functions normally ascribed to humans, or as a machine in the form of a human.” A more modern definition of a robot given by the Robot Institute of America defines robots as “programmable, multifunctional manipulators designed to move material parts, tools, or specialized devices through variable programmed motions or for the performance of a variety of tasks.” Note that this definition eliminates the requirement that robots take human form. We encounter robots in all shapes and forms that carry out a variety of functions that aid in many different areas of life including manufacturing and entertainment.

Barry Brian Werger is the director and coordinator of Ullanta Performance Robotics, which is robot performance group that creates scripted performances that casts robots as performers. The robot performers incorporate autonomous behavior and the result is that each performance is slightly different every time. The following quote describes the goals of these projects as described by Werger.

 “Distributed, multi-agent, social robotics aims to generate more interesting robotic behavior through the design and study of systems involving numerous agents. Emotional robotics seeks to understand how emotion influences both individual and social behavior. Artistically, I see performance robotics as the use of these new technologies and concepts to create new experiences in theater – and new challenges for scriptwriters and directors. As a roboticist, I see public performance of aesthetically designed pieces to be a challenging test-bed for the abovementioned research areas. Robotic performance pieces, which have to appeal to audiences and take place at scheduled times, demand a standard of robustness, adaptivity, and interaction that few laboratory experiments display.”

Below is a video clips of one of their performances called “Self-Made Man and the Moon,” based on the poem of the same name by Paul Genga.

The works focus on the emotional robotics explores the idea that robots are no longer passive slaves but rather intelligent sensing communicating entities. The increasing prominence of these machines raises many cultural and moral questions. For example what is the limit of human abilities to create autonomous machines? And what are the dangers in creating them? Although these questions may not be fully answered, something is clear. Robots are, as Wilson puts it, “quintessential creatures of our time.” Advancement in these fields is inevitable as there is an unrelenting desire to push technology as far as possible and the world of robotics has no where to go but forward. Something that I would like to emphasize is that as we become more technologically advanced in these fields there is the notion that advancement equals progress. However as we become more reliant on machines and robots, there is a decline in the human necessity that many would argue is actually the opposite of progress. From this an intense debate arises around the question of whether advancements in robotics are overall advantageous or detrimental to human life. In class we discussed a new robotic tool used in surgery the exemplifies this dilemma. The following link and video provides more information on this new technology.

http://www.makosurgical.com/physicians/products/rio

Essentially the system involves a robotic arm that is controlled by a doctor via a computer program that can be used in precision surgery. While there are obvious advantages to this type of technology, my concern lies in what this technology means for humanity. Sure the fields of robotics and machinery have made things like food production, waste management and other large-scale industries far easier. However, this break through technology exemplifies the great potential that robotics proposes in fields not only in mass production but areas as specialized as surgery and medicine. So where does that leave us? With this field exponentially expanding and numerous projects and work being done to investigate things like emotional robotics and even the creation of autonomous humanoids, what repercussions will this have on the human necessity and the future of human civilizations socially and even economically? If robots can replace humans in all areas of business and industry what jobs would be left ? Would there be a decrease in the need for education if we can just build and design machines to do specialized jobs for us? Would we get lazy as a species becoming so reliant on technology that we can no longer function without it? In a lot of way this is already happening. For example it only takes but one look around any public space to see that virtually everyone relies on cell phones to get through basic everyday routines, when 50 years ago hardly anyone had one. I again bring up the notion of progress. Can this be considered progress? What exactly defines progress? Is progress an illusion? Are we inadvertently dooming ourselves to a future in which we as human beings will be redundant? At what point do we become too reliant on technology? To end this post I offer a link to debate on this topic that presents different arguments regarding this question.

http://www.debate.org/opinions/have-people-become-overly-dependent-on-technology

-Lauren Simons

Week 7: A-life

This week I chose to focus on the topic of artificial life. Artificial life can be defined as “a field of study and an associated art form which examines systems related to life, its processes, and its evolution, through the use of simulations with computer models, robotics, and biochemistry.”(1) Before talking about what can be considered artificial life and what social and ethical issues arise from this topic, I think an important distinction must be made between the terms “artificial life” and “artificial intelligence.” While these two fields often over lap and at times rely on one another, they are very different in their approach and history. Artificial life is more biology based and is concerned with specific life oriented algorithms and how these algorithms and their laws can be understood and replicated to stimulate life. Artificial intelligence on the other hand is more rooted in psychology and is concerned with how human intelligence can be replicated. This is an important distinction to make when considering the questions posed by Wilson. “What is life? Must it always be carbon based? Is it possible for humans to create life?” (Wilson, 302) I think an important question to add to these is: Can there be life without intelligence? And furthermore what constitutes intelligence? Computer soft wares are programmed to “learn,” or change behavior as a result of experience. For example YouTube suggests new pages based on videos that you have already watched. Therefore because a computer program can “learn,” can we call it “living”? I think that most people would answer no, however the work of many artists including Yves Klein complicates this question and its answer, as well as bringing up new ones regarding how one can determine life.

Yves Klein is a French artist that blends the fields of art and science to produce what he calls “living sculptures.” The piece discussed in the textbook was his eight-sided polyurethrane interactive sculpture that exhibits simple reflexive autonomous behavior. Octofungi is able to learn from its environment and can perceive light and movement. The most interesting thing about the work however is its ability to “evaluate the magnitude and impetuousness” of the change in environment. The robot does this by emulating the electrical noise associated with neuronal structures of the brain. Klein’s goal in this work is to create living sculptures that have the “ability to change their behavior and form as the generations past.” (Wilson, 350) His work contemplates the definition of life and what differentiates between animate an inanimate objects. Octofungi is an example of artificial life that incorporates some aspects of artificial intelligence. This differentiates it from other A-life projects such as Michael Grey’s A-life jellyfish. Grey’s jellyfish without going into to much detail is basically a robotic jellyfish that can mimic the movements of real jellyfish and can be used in ocean monitoring or even cleaning up oil spills. In this case we have an artificial “life”-form that does not incorporate artificial intelligence as Octofungi does, but rather merely emulates a biological system.

octofungi3 octofungi4

So my question is, how can these two forms of A-life be categorized? Although Octofungi does not function completely autonomously, is its small capacity for intelligence enough to render it living? Or are the two robots the same and should be considered non-living? Again this brings up the question, what determines intelligence? Or digging even deeper, is pure intelligence enough? How do things like emotion and morality come into play when determining life? We can even consider questions pertaining to the biology. For example, must one be able to reproduce and evolve in order to be considered life? Even more issues arise if you were to consider the fact that if or when an A-life being is considered as equivalent (perhaps not entirely) to natural life, what are the ethical and social implications of this? Should these beings have rights? The declaration of independence protects the rights that “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle [us].” But what about the rights of those that are not “natural?”

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_life

http://www.livingsculpture.com/works/octofungi

Information Arts, Stephen Wilson

-Lauren Simons

Midterm: Eduardo Kac’s GFP bunny

For the midterm assignment I wrote about Eduardo Kac and his GFP bunny Alba and the social, cultural, and ethical implications of genetic engineering and the issues raised by bio-art. Here is an exert from my paper.

Biology and genetics has not only been a hot topic in the areas of research and medicine, but also in the art world. Art and science are intrinsically intertwined, building off of and relying on one another in an effort to define the concepts of life and identity. One artist that has pushed the boundaries between art and science is Eduardo Kac. Eduardo Kac is an American contemporary artist who’s work encompasses various genres and fields including biology, ecology, genetics, transgenesis, and biotechnology, coining a new genre of art that he refers to as “bio-art” or “transgenic art.” His work has been exhibited in the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, and South America and has raised controversy and debate all over the world. “Transgenic art,” says Alba “is a new art form based on the use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to an organism, to create unique living beings.” (1) Most notably is his collaboration with French geneticist Louise-Marie Houdebine, of the National Institute of Argonomic Research, in the creation of the transgenic bunny, Alba. The GFP bunny, GFP standing for green fluorescent protein, was created by splicing the GFP of a jellyfish and inserting it into her genome. The project is described as a “complex social event” that explores the social, cultural, and ethical implications of genetic engineering, as well as the public’s reaction to this topic, and extends the concepts of biodiversity and evolution. It also aims to contest the alleged supremacy of DNA in life, and examines interspecies communication between humans and a transgenic mammal, and the notions of normalcy, purity, hybridity, and otherness. (1)

gfpb1 albagreen

Sources:

http://www.ekac.org/gfpbunny.html#gfpbunnyanchor

Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts: Intersections of art, science, and technology.

-Lauren Simons

3D Printing and the Loss of Art Culture

The topic that most interested me this week was art in the field of rapid proto-typing, particularly 3D printing practices. 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing has been around since the 1980’s, and is the process of creating three dimensional objects out of digital images via 3D scanning and molding technologies. This practice has numerous industrial advantages for example in the production of cars, computers, clothes or essentially an industrial product. However what I want to focus on is the use of 3D printing in art practices. After doing some research on the web I stumbled across a creative art and manufacturing studio based out of Wilsonville, Oregon called Additive Workshop. Additive’s technology creates exact replicas of artwork of any size and shape, able to generate 8 million bits of information per square inch scanned, that is precise enough to capture something as detailed as a fingerprint. Works that would normally take months or years to create can now be made in a matter hours. The technology begins with a triple light scanner that is used to take 3-D computer models of any piece of art. The scan is then transferred to a 3-D photo rapid prototyping system, which can build the highly detailed 3D models. One of Additive Workshop’s most significant projects was in collaboration with Michael Curry Design, to create the 65-foot Spirit Bear, one of the biggest puppets ever made, that appeared in the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. 2010-winter-olympic-opening-ceremony-e1268306614544 Aside from the ability to rapid produce works of art, this type of 3D printing is also useful in the conservation of art. 3D scanners can be used to capture digital archives of historical monuments and ancient artifacts.

 “Additive Workshop bridges the gap between the real world and the virtual world,” says Mark Ghiglieri, CEO of Additive Workshop. “Our technology allows us to bring pieces of art into the world in an infinite number of ways, and that is why our business is exploding. Everyone from museums to movie studios needs our help to create incredible works of art in a short amount of time.”

This is a link to a Ted talk that discusses in more detail the 3D printing process and its uses. https://www.ted.com/talks/lisa_harouni_a_primer_on_3d_printing#t-521726 While there are clear advantages of 3D printing in art preservation, I question whether the rapid production of art should be seen advantageous. I recently attended a lecture given at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art by the English artist Tacita Dean. Dean experiments with various media, however her particular interest is in film. Through the lecture she showed many of her projects and exhibits that put an emphasis on the connection between the artist and their medium. One that was particularly powerful was her exhibition Film which is an 11-minute silent 35 mm film projected onto a gigantic white monolith standing 13 meters tall at the end of a darkened Turbine Hall. The exhibition was meant to pay homage to a rapidly dying medium, film, which in the age of digital imaging has all but become obsolete. What is particularly fascinating about her work is that she painstakingly edits all her film by hand. This is particularly important for her because she emphasizes the crucial relationship between artist and medium.Her work, said Dean, is both “an act of mourning and an argument for the future.” This beautiful medium, which we invented 125 years ago, is about to go. How long have we got? I hope we’ve got a year left. It’s that critical.” Tacita-Deans-Film-in-the--008 Here is a link to an article about this exhibition if interested 🙂 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/oct/10/tacita-dean-film-turbine-hall I think that 3D printing poses similar threats to art making. In the same way that digital imaging eradicated film, 3D printing is looking to eliminate the manual labors that are essential to the art making process. While 3D printing may be able to recreate art works to fine detail, perhaps even better than any one could do by hand, I worry about the repercussions that the industrialization of art has on art culture. What would differentiate a true artist from anyone that has a good idea? Ideas are only part of producing art, execution and production play equally important roles in creating impactful artworks. 3D printing standardizes art allowing anyone to create anything. How does this affect art culture and the relationship between an artist and their medium? If anyone can create anything, what makes an artist an artist? How does rapid art production devalue art? This resonates with many themes visited throughout the quarter on technological advancement and the notion of doing things because we can, not because we should.

-Lauren Simons

Beatriz Da Costa: “Dying for the Other”

This week’s material focuses on art and technology and how they engage in the world of medicine. One artist from lecture that particularly stood out to me was Beatriz Da Costa. Da Costa was an artist and researcher whose work blended the fields of science, engineering, and contemporary art as a way to explore interspecies relations in urban settings. Her work took many forms including installations, sculpture, photography, performance plus many more. She even experimented with biological materials and organisms. The work that I will be exploring in my case study today is called “Dying for the Other,” which was presented as a 3 channel video installation in which she documented her life as she battled breast cancer. The videos project clips of De Costa as she receives physical and cognitive therapy after receiving brain surgery to remove tumors that had spread form her breast to her brain. These clips are interspersed with video segments of lab rats that are being used in cancer treatment experiments.

This exhibition is one that hits home for many. There are so many people world wide that are affected by cancer both directly and indirectly and there a hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations dedicated to the treatment of and finding a cure for cancer, that the average person wouldn’t think twice about the work these organizations do. However in this project, Da Costa brings new light to something that is, for most the part, universally perceived in one way. She raises unspoken ethical and moral questions regarding cancer treatment and experimentation practices that are often overlooked and go unchallenged. Even more interesting I find about this work is that she herself is a victim to the disease and despite her want to survive, she is absolutely unrelenting in her need to pursue her art and send this message.

Normally the experiences and emotions of a person dealing with terminal illness are very internal and hidden from the outside world. Da Costa not only brings these emotions to the surface with this work but she also uses the clips of the lab rats as a way to link the animals we use as a proxy for our suffering, to how little we actually know about many diseases such as cancer. One scene that I found particularly powerful was the side by side clips of Da Costa as she portions out her medication for the week next the clip of the lab rats being injected with experimental drugs. This juxtaposition is extremely powerful in that it shows how both the rats and Da Costa become test subjects in field of science that is beyond our comprehension. Their lives are linked in a way that is emotionally conflicting for the viewer. While De Costa obviously wants to live and fights her survival, there is a sense of empathy for the lab rats that are essential to her therapy. She uses this parallel as a way to examine the mutual fragilties of these two victims and raises broader social and moral questions regarding humanity’s ability and right, or perhaps lack there of, to determine worth. Things like animal cruelty and speciesism are not topics typically associated with things like cancer, however Da Costa brings these issues together in a way that is powerful and relatable. The message of this work is even more impactful by the fact that this was Da Costa’s last creation before her passing from this disease. It goes to show that despite the disease ending her life it was not able to end her work. Below is a clip of the installation which was exhibited at Laguna Art Museum in Long Beach California.

-Lauren Simons