Few people live in optimal bodies, without illness, injury or discomfort. When infomercials ask if we feel tired, suffer inflammation, headaches or bloating, we think: that’s me. Ailments, mortal or trifling, rouse the human instinct for remediation, healing and enhancing.
Curated by Andrew Varano, Remedial Works presents six artists who regulate and remediate, invoking an armoury of talismanic products and wellness strategies. Drawing an equivalence between art materials and tonic substances, Sophie Cassar, Jess Tan, Clare Milledge, Shana Moulton, and Lithuanian duo Pakui Hardware examine the physiological and emotional potency of items as various as probiotics, clay and bandages.
The droll videos of Shana Moulton feature her hypochondriac alter ego, browsing online for panaceas: makeup removal pads that reveal the inner self, yoghurt that cures IBS and transports consumers into music videos. Moulton’s surreal remedies do what the label promises. “She takes these products to their logical conclusion,” says Varano. “Some videos end with her transforming into pure energy, escaping the body.”
Knick-knacks and craft materials are used in a process of therapeutic arrangement by Jess Tan.
“The textural materials serve her impulse to make a comfy, personal space. It’s a kind of self-care,” says Varano. Perfumed by diffusers charged with healing vapours, Tan’s installation resembles a human nest, once bodily inhabited by the artist and constructed by hand.
Drawing on the experience of chronic illness and recurrent surgery, Sophie Cassar considers pop culture depictions of sick women. Applauding the plaster-cast stiletto worn by Diane Kruger’s Bridget von Hammers-mark in Inglorious Basterds and the Hermés chemotherapy headscarves found in soap opera land’s Wisteria Lane, Cassar promotes the glamorisation of illness as a form of agency. The artist encrusts hospital balloons in puffy stickers, reddish-pink: both cute and scab-like.
Everybody remediates, abstaining and supplementing. Remedial Works demonstrates that it’s often the remedial act, not the efficacy of the tincture, which relieves us. “We feel better when we’re putting it on,” says Varano.