40% of young millennials describe themselves as religious “nones”. Not atheists, per se, but instead pulling from a hodgepodge of spiritual practices in the individualistic pursuit of enlightenment. To fill the ritual void: 10-step skincare routines, spiritually focused exercise regimens, and endless wellness brands promising to optimize your body. Wellness has become a 3 trillion dollar industry, with brands commodifying language you might otherwise hear in a sermon. Driven largely by the internet, what are the impacts and implications of praying to the altar of consumerism? Can self-care be radical when our wellness and beauty culture still champions the thin, white, and able-bodied?
I craft altars to unwellness and disability. As a sick teenager, I coped with my illness by obsessively searching the internet for self-help content. I tried to morph myself into the digital skin of athleisure models, followed fad diets promising to purge the ailments from my body.
Using digital animation, collage, and 3D-printing, I meld the disabled body with the digital glitch to expose the false promises made by tech companies and influencers selling endless personal optimization. I appropriate and decompose images and videos of health and beauty routines, augmented by self-portraiture, 3D animation, and screenshots into baroque, maximalist compositions. I make use of the stock models used for advertising to deconstruct and, consequently, destroy ad content. No longer in service to commerce, the recontextualized images become uncanny and unsettling. I also insert myself, particularly through the use of 3D scans, which always have incomplete data that renders my body as though it were deteriorating. All of these elements are then composed like religious art. I particularly draw inspiration from Catholic reliquaries and Vietnamese home altars. The work is framed by 3D-printed hands and other distorted body parts, desaturated to be bone white.
The work is rife with binary contradictions: the cyborg as a healed whole and repulsive combination of the organic and artificial, the doctor as patient, and the fetishized and fetishizer. The vaporwave-colored works have a veneer of beauty, but their beauty is undermined by the abject practices of so-called self-improvement. Ultimately, we only value the cyborg body when it masks our mortality.
Cardinal, am I a Christian? navigates trauma and the subsequent fear of violence and death through fantasies of martyrdom and immortality.