Scientific Observer

justine cooper

Justine Cooper‘s new exhibition Terminal at Daneyal Mahmood Gallery is not for the faint of heart. Juxtaposing her decade-old video and installation titled Rapt with colour photographs of distressed medical mannequins from 2008, the show considers the body pictured through science.

Rapt features animated imagery of the artist’s real body, expressed via black and white MRI imaging slices, and takes the viewer on a surreal tour of her interior in cross-section. Stripped of humanity and outward signs, this body seems more meat than person, more imaging data than flesh, more avatar than Justine.

Conversely, the obviously artificial bodies of medical mannequins Wilbur, Sally, and friends, subjects of the recent photographs, are positioned in naturalistic throes of physical trauma. On a gurney with a mass of tubes set to extrude or intrude; in a post-childbirth semi-shock; or in agony with bullets lodged in gaping head and chest wounds – they seem somewhat human despite the overwhelming lack of blood. Though such mannequins exist for medical practitioners to sharpen their skills, their rubbery masks, bad wigs and unblinking eyes suggest Michael Myers from Halloween, Chucky from Child’s Play, Cindy Sherman‘s portraits with doll parts and prosthetics, post-traumatic reconstructive surgery, strange hybrids, and mutation in the case of poor Sally whose baby face came off to expose her mouth hole, lidless eyes, and strange insect-like thorax.

Cooper’s previous works, including Havidol and Saved By Science also investigate science – specifically pharmacology and scientific classification. Her complex aestheticized subjects include questionable practices such as marketing techniques favoured by the pharmaceutical industry, and the collection of animal parts that not only educate scientists but leech the natural world.

pictured above, Sally.

2 Responses to “Scientific Observer”

  1. A.M. Richard Says:

    The Cooper photographs using the medical mannequins as props are also reminescent of Hans Bellmer’s desconstructed/reconstructed doll photographs from the 1930s/40s although used in a different context. Both are endebted to a surrealistic lineage and are effectively sensational. The medical doll faces are also eerily similar to Morton Bartlett’s sculpted figures (another follower of Bellmer). Ms. Cooper adds a rich and multi-layered chapter to the subject of doll iconography.

  2. Jillian Mcdonald Blog » Blog Archive » Say Something Meaningful Says:

    [...] Justine Cooper, whom I blogged about before, has a great piece called Havidol which is itself an ad campaign for a fictional drug using the [...]

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