We're constantly bombarded with seemingly "perfect" bodies through films, videogames and advertising. But we all know these unrealistic ideals are often nipped and tucked by the latest tech and post-production wizardry.
In a new show at the Hayward Gallery this May, British artist Kate Cooper will present unsettling new works that mimic and critique these kinds of idealised images that dominate today’s visual culture, exploring gender, technology and the politics of labour.
Using the same cutting-edge tools, Cooper’s photo-realistic characters become tired and sick, bleed and bruise. "As harbingers of effect, the liminal bodies become tools with which to unpick contemporary modes of labour and negotiate our own understanding of the effects of capitalism on our physical selves," she explains.
Among the works included in the exhibition are two recent videos, Infection Drivers (2018) and Symptom Machine (2017). In the former, she presents a naked figure wearing an inflatable bodysuit that expands and recedes, uncomfortably augmenting her gendered body and limiting its freedom of movement. In Symptom Machine, Cooper explores a threatening cinematic tension between the same CG figure and a zombie-like "cypher" – here, human and non-human figures meet, seep blood, and enact a pursuit on a conveyor belt.
As indicated by their titles, Cooper’s works are inspired by the way a virus behaves within the body – tricking its host into assaulting its own immune system. Turning the tropes of commercial image production against themselves, Cooper asserts the bodily nature of her characters, exploring their performative and "material" limits. In doing so, she disrupts our ability to empathise with the images and suggests new possibilities of autonomy and self-care.
Kate Cooper at HENI Project Space, Hayward Gallery will run from 15 May until 23 June 2019. More information can be found at southbankcentre.co.uk.