𝑻𝒐𝒕𝒂𝒍 𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒍 𝑶𝒇 𝑴𝒆
Surrogacy + surveillance feat. Lauren McCarthy
Are you in control?
Are you sure?
The work of Lauren McCarthy explores the limits of control. Even the ones we don’t know about.
What we hold onto and what we lose when our choices are increasingly shaped by algorithms we can’t see.
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The way we hand over personal data to unseen forces of influence, barely even conscious of the process. The ways in which an algorithmic mindset starts to change the ways we interact with other humans.
I’ve felt this. I summon a car and driver to my location, and can set my preferences for conversation just as easily as my preferred temperature. I can rate and review a babysitter in a way that will hinder or facilitate their ability to find their next client, without saying a single word to them.
I move through town, like most of us, with barely a recognition for the cameras watching my every move.
The piece that currently has me most intrigued is McCarthy’s work from a few years ago, Surrogate.
In this performed experiment – the artist did not ultimately carry a baby – McCarthy goes through each stage of the surrogacy process, but heightens the parameters of control for the parent couple.
Through an app, they can shop optimal genetic inputs, then observe and mandate every aspect of her physical, emotional, nutritional and spiritual existence – from diet and exercise to mood and mindset.
It is total, absolute, 24/7 control, in which she makes available not only her uterus but her entire being to the process. Allowing and deferring to these outsiders to determine her life choices for the nine months, everything from the macro to the mundane.
It is humanity for sale as a consumer product.
The piece culminated in a performance: a documentary, an on-stage recollection, a birth of sorts.
A piece of embodied performance art, one documented with every high-definition millimetre of modern media capture. Vibrant in the air, the sense that bodies, especially women’s bodies, are always under scrutiny as objects of control – in culture, in the law, through technology. Anticipating a future of consumer-grade genetic editing, of surrogacy-as-a-service, of ultimate subservience.
Where I let you take total control of me.
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