Healing Disparities: The Condition of Embodiment, was a solo exhibition of original work by mixed media artist Ben Cuevas. The Exhibition took place at Canal Gallery in Holyoke, MA, May 2-10, 2010.
‘I can’t understand why some people believe completely in medicine and not in art, without questioning either’
-Damien Hirst, exhibition catalogue, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 1991
“There is no longer a pathological essence beyond the symptoms…”
-Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic
Traditional western medicine is an institution often focused on the relief of symptoms, wherein pharmaceuticals promise that the solutions to all of our problems come in the form of a pill. In pursuit of this promise, pharmaceutical marketing practices have made a nearly Orwellian dystopia of our postmodern world, in which our health is dictated by the omnipresent din of the media landscape. By telling us that happiness lies in a pill, by offering a cure for every ailment in life, medicine ignores the metaphysical condition of embodiment (i.e., the condition of having a body, mind, and spirit). Throughout this exhibition, I’ve sought to integrate elements from both the metaphysical and the medicinal, in order to highlight (and maybe even heal) some of the disparities that exist between them.
To encompass the breadth of corporeal experience, the four installations in Healing Disparities represent a progression from birth to death. The Waiting Room deals with the concepts of time, fate, and waiting, while imploring the viewer to meditate on images of pharmaceuticals in popular culture and the media. The Hospital Room merges the chakra system (the body’s energy centers) with the physical body within the context of the medical industrial complex. Medicine Cabinets reveals the concealed, and speaks to the place of medicine in the home. The Pill Box (Requiem) calls for an end to direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing practices and posits their link to death.
A relationship between the physical and metaphysical carries into my use of fabric, yarn, and thread. I think of fiber as representing the stuff of the ether, the raw substance of the universe from which life is created. This meaning comes from the three fates of Greek mythology, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who respectively spin, measure, and cut the threads of each human life before weaving them into the tapestry of existence. Fiber is both matter and the void, the earthly and the ethereal: knitted anatomy invokes the body as the clothing for the soul, and knitted pills speak to how intimately the pharmaceutical industry is insinuated with corporeal experience.
The Waiting Room, 2010
(knitted hearts, bell jars, faux fur, knitted column, video, sound,
string, cinder blocks, ply wood, acrylic and steel chairs, clip board with sign-in sheet, magazine)
The Hospital Room, 2010
(knitted body parts that correspond to the chakras, steel and acrylic gurney, medical tray tables, assorted lab glass, curtains, PVC pipe, spray paint, mirror tiles, masonite)
For detailed images of each body part, follow these links:
Medicine Cabinets, 2010
(medicine cabinets, knitted psychoactive pills, acrylic sheet, digital prints, fluorescent lights)
The Pill Box (Requiem), 2010
(acrylic coffin, gel capsules, mirror pedestal, faux fur, curtains, PVC pipe, spray paint, sound, video)
Sound piece in collaboration with John Kearns