There’s a growing dialogue around the jobs our bodies perform for us. As the labour market develops and “capitalism is eclipsed”, the fight for control of the market is becoming more and more focused on bodies and images thereof. Kate Cooper’s work focuses on the “inauthenticity” of computer-generated images and how hypercapitalism leaves us in a position to hack the images it presents us with. We spoke to Cooper about how her work deals with body representation, work and labour, and authenticity, as well as the flattened hierarchies that are crucial in creating this work.
My interest lies in the relationship images have to the body and to the idea of the self, how it is constructed and what agency we have within that space. As images increasingly perform independently from what they represent – and become divorced from representation entirely – the labour and modes of production at play become less clear.
So thinking about this in relation to your question of health – I’m interested in this idea of management or control of the body. This constructed image of the ‘working body’ particularly in relation to this health, image industry favours a particular class and gender. Being healthy is something you must actively work at, healthy becomes an image of something, you might perform a certain attitude towards it when in reality your body is doing something else.
My recent work has been interested in finding ways to create new and different combinations of imagery; perhaps in using visual strategies such as hacking into images – and putting them to work on our behalf – we can find a freedom in these spaces that have traditionally been meant to restrict us. We have seen this happen historically within working class communities who hack brands – reproducing and wearing counterfeit goods – and I’m really interested in these antagonistic approaches, where desire is mediated through alternative strategies. Through a networked or collective approach to image making and distribution, is it possible to reinvent our relationships both to the images themselves, and to their subject: our own bodies?
This idea of authentic is too much of a burden – why don’t we embrace the inauthentic? I think there is a freedom in CG because there is no way to be authentic within these images – I’m intrigued by their blandness and sameness, yet they can be manipulated and stretched to do things for us. Also I’m interested in this moment where image production and distribution begin to flatten. How do they relate or not to our own bodies, what degree of agency do we have? How might we be in control of these tensions to create new positioning?
I have always been attracted to fashion and advertising imagery but also aware of the sometimes violent and destructive subjectivities it can create. In imagery such as this, where representation is constantly shifting, I’m interested in the limits of “positive” or “negative” imagery, and how these can even be denoted. Through the work in “Rigged”, I was interested in exploring the surface and visual language of hyper capitalism; and through this surface trying to find new ways to perform representation and ideas of the self.
Perhaps what CG represents could be seen as a negative image, but I want to see how you can hack into something that is meant to be restrictive and shift its meaning. I also think there is something freeing in their construction – even if they are modelled on a hybrid of multiple ideals of women – in this case it doesn’t create a beauty standard but instead an uneasy feeling of death; they become too close, too lifelike.
This idea of control, work and competition, I think, is increasingly dangerous. It’s the promise that we can be better – the capitalist dream. But actually it is just eroding every part of daily lives – everything is tracked, and so becomes a place in which work and non-work have become blurred. Also this increasing gamification of every aspect of our lives is really fascinating to me. It becomes addictive and you want to keep up with this image. Coming back to what I said earlier, how do we refuse, or not work?
Perhaps a networked approach can make space for images to be created and distributed that create a body that can stand in for a person who doesn’t want to represent or produce a certain type of labour. Maybe we can invade these images as a mode of refusal; refusal of our own images and the inherent work involved in their creation.
Look out for a curated portfolio of artists dealing with contemporary notions of health in Sleek 45: Silent Spring
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