Interdisciplinary Conference


in Art & Science

26-28 November 2020, University of Applied Arts Vienna/Online

169. GLEI Inc.: The Plasticization of Privilege
Session: Session "NSP13 / Moist"
Speakers: Lauren Ruiz

Biopolitics, bioethics, evolution, genetics, aesthetics of science I am a research based multimedia artist confronting the roles of ethics, privilege, and authority in regards to plastic pollution and its relationship to human bodies. My interactive installations and web-based new media projects confront how the aesthetics of science and institutional power act as markers of authority, privilege and accessibility. In this artist talk I will unpack my recent research-based interactive projects: Plasticization Clinic, Plasticization Clinic II, and The GLEI Box: At-home Saliva Toxicant Test, and contextualize my methodologies amidst the literary and ecocritical theories of Timothy Morton and Jane Bennett, among others. My interactive installations, Plasticization Clinic and Plasticization Clinic II, present information both factual and speculative about the trajectory of human existence in relation to the amount of tangible plastic waste that pollutes the water supply, toxicants that are released from single use plastics over time, and the startling amount of microplastics that are regularly consumed as a result. Under the guise of a medical clinic waiting room for my invented corporation, the Genetic Laboratories of Evolutionary Investment, or GLEI Inc., the works present information on a fictional bioengineering process in which a subject can undergo a procedure that allows them the ability to digest synthetic toxicants, through sculpture, video, text based work, and performance. Within this speculative-fiction-based installation, I perform as a laboratory technician encouraging visitors to participate in the fiction and share private data: saliva, medical history, and personal information. The saliva is then tested for bisphenol A (BPA) and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), toxicants commonly found in many single-use plastics. The interaction creates a moment of digestion, an instance of understanding of the impact of plastic pollution because it deals directly with the personal and the biological effects that cannot be denied. The aesthetic markers of the clinic confront the role of wealth, race, and ethics in environmental issues. As an extension of the genetic-engineering fiction behind these installations and my corporation GLEI Inc., The GLEI Box: At-home Saliva Toxicant Test, extends the social impact of the two plasticization clinics and deploys the structural mechanisms of at-home ancestry kits to problematize issues of identity, trust, and privacy in the medical sciences. The company website, commercials, and GLEI Box, which is available for online purchase, exists as a collective project commenting on the power of aesthetics and language in medical institutional authority and socioeconomic disparity. The box is both satirical and critical of the disparity between America’s privileged and disadvantaged in regards to healthcare and their relationship to the environmental crisis. In this talk, the descriptions and analyses of my research-based methodologies will demonstrate how my immersive speculative fiction-based installations provide forums for a subject to internalize global issues concerning human biology, politics, society, and nature. By contextualizing my strategies of engaging with complex ecological construction such as deep time, Nature, and the beyond through supporting documents, I will reveal how the works provide palpability for direct embodied relationships to complex crises.

Lauren Ruiz

Hosting Institutions

angewandte   inarts