Artist Justine Cooper has found an unusual way to express her frustration with our health care system; she’s created characters out of dressed-up medical mannequins. On her quirky social media site, these mannequins represent doctors, patients, and employees at a fictional Midwestern clinic.
Cooper describes the site as a “mixed reality artwork,” and titled it “Living in Sim,” Last fall, the mannequins also were installed at NYC’s Daneyal Mahmood Gallery.
The medical mannequins endure a dysfunctional health care system just like ours—Cooper uses them as surrogates. Their interactions, she says, reveal “our sense of identity, culture, and healthcare in a technologically advanced society.”
Cooper, through the mannequins, also blogs about topics such as the ethics of face transplants, plastic surgery and universal health care, to name a few. Through their contrived posts, Cooper comments on peoples’ obsessions with how they present themselves online.
Her site even includes fictional sponsors, displaying pharmaceutical company ads. My favorite spoof is the ad for Havidol—Avafynetyme HCL—Future PHARMS, Inc.’s medication when “more is not enough.” The copy, self-assessment quiz, graphics and patient information insert are pitch-perfect. A pdf comes complete with molecular formula, clinical pharmacology (“mechanism of action has been shown to bind to receptors for the newly recognized hormone, hedonine”), results of in vitro studies, pharmacokinetics, clinical trials, etc.
The tone of Havidol’s Important Safety Information matches today’s TV ads: “Havidol should be taken indefinitely. Side effects may include mood changes, muscle strain, extraordinary thinking, dermal gloss…” Levitra anyone? It’s so convincing that site visitors have emailed asking where they can buy the product, says Cooper.
Unfortunately, we recognize ourselves in the garish mannequins, who collude with a healthcare system, that, like ours, profits from sickness. Moreover, Cooper believes “insurance providers within our current health care system deem human beings to be commodities.” And online, like plastic dummies, “We are opened up, inspected, under surveillance, recorded, intervened with, and manifested into something that becomes part of a system.”
So if you live in sin, you can have it all. But at quite a price.