When more is not enough – Justine Cooper’s HAVIDOL®
Justine Cooper’s work in Super Human investigates the intersections between culture, science and medicine. The Australian interdisciplinary artist, who lives and works in New York, has developed a slick advertising campaign for a fictional product called HAVIDOL® – for when more is not enough.
“For HAVIDOL® I saw ads for real pharmaceuticals while sitting in an airport and 2 years later I had a full blown marketing campaign for my fictional lifestyle pharmaceutical HAVIDOL®,” Cooper said.
“The technology most appropriate was the internet because it mimics the pharmco advertising agencies desire for market saturation, it crosses geographical boundaries (even if drug advertising is illegal in most countries) and it’s cheap.”
HAVIDOL® was launched onto the market with its web site www.havidol.com in early 2007, coinciding with its launch in a New York art gallery. In the first week of the exhibition the web site received more than 250,000 hits.
Cooper’s fictional pharmaceutical treats the fictional condition DSACDAD – Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder. However, she notes that parody gives way to possibility as the marketing message leaves us with the sense that we are never good enough, nor have enough.
Cooper’s work moves between animation, video, installation, photography, as well as medical imaging technologies. She was the first Artist in Residence at the American Museum of Natural History
“My work responds to science or medicine generally, not usually about specific research projects – natural history collections, medical simulation, pharmaceutical development,” Cooper said.
“I believe that technology is making us more social, but the levels of connection are literally about “more” and not about “deep”. So then it’s a question of if being human is based on being social.”
HAVIDOL® is a product that treats what you didn’t know you didn’t have, and to that end includes the merchandise you didn’t know you needed – such as custom hoodie with an interlocking pattern that is based on the drug’s chemical compound.
Interaction in the exhibition is encouraged via the Zing Self Assessment Quiz to determine if you are suffering from the disorder. Questions range from “life seems better when I have more than others”, to “I feel empty after a full day of shopping.”
“Participation is a key factor in how I structure a project to invite interaction,” Cooper said.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as the Zing Self Assessment test for HAVIDOL®, which asks users to assess their own desires and tendencies and gives them a score they can use to know if they need the drug.
“Of course everyone needs it, but the point is to playfully engage the viewer while keeping in mind the underlying concept of the project.”
As an artist working with technology, Cooper said that the technology is at the service of the idea, not the other way around.
“I’m looking for some axis of culture, technology and science,” Cooper said.
“I don’t consider the technologies I use to be cutting edge, they are just combined in a way that is intended to be effective.”
Cooper said that each project requires different kinds of collaboration. The collaboration can be thought based or production based. She said that there is always a range of responses from practitioners in science and technology to her work.
“Often they appreciate the sense of humor in the work, occasionally I’ve been scolded for bad science (that’s an impossible chemical compound for HAVIDOL®!),” Cooper said.
“I’ve also been asked if general population feedback for the project could be used for their own research purposes!”
Cooper said that what excites her about the possible interface of art and technology in the future is that technology in general connects people, if we think of social and communications networks.
“Art in connection with such technology can pass through the boundaries that are often exclusionary to general audiences,” she said.
For media enquiries, photos and interviews with artists, contact RMIT Gallery Media Coordinator Evelyn Tsitas at RMIT Gallery
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