The term 'prosthetic' is now attributed to the branch of surgery dedicated to replacing missing or defective limbs, but to the Ancient Greeks it was an altogether more assertive concept meaning 'to add', 'to advance' or 'to give power to'. SHOWstudio teamed up with Una Burke to create a SHOWcabinet installation, embraceing this original meaning and displaying a range of artefacts that engaged directly with prosthet-ics' ability to adorn, equip and enhance.
Una Burke's leather sculptures created the foundation for the installation. Her inanimate bodies engaged the language of the physical gesture. Each limb was constructed from countless, beautifully bound leather straps and resembled orthopaedic braces or suits of armour. While offering protection or support, they also suggest that the encased body is a fragile system. This constant interplay between empowerment and restriction creates a fetishistic dialectic between invisibility and visibility, as well as denial and disclosure. Burke also released an exclusive film directed by SHOWstudio's then Head of Fashion Film Marie Schuller to coincide with the launch of the cabinet. The film sees her ordinarily motionless figure brought surreally and subtly to life.
Alongside Burke's work sat a variety of objects and artefacts which explored ideas surrounding prosthetics. Created during a dynamic collaboration between Aimee Mullins, Betony Vernon and Dorset Orthopaedics, the prosthetic legs that Mullins wore as a Chef de Mission for the Paralympic Opening Ceremony were on display in the cabinet. With the legacy of London's 2012 Olympic games still fresh, the imagery on Mullins' sculptural legs is powerful. A full set of wings run the length of each shin - a reminder of Icarus, and a nod to intrepid innovation. Mullins herself competed in the Atlanta Paralympic Games in 2006 sporting a pair of the then newly developed cheetah style prosthetics and has since painstakingly spent her career giving a more positive and empowered face to disability.
Also featured in the cabinet, was Kat Marks' artefact collection 'The Braces'. Inspired by her own experience of having to wear a Boston Back Brace to redirect the curvature of her spine in her adolescence, Marks created 3 vacuum-formed thermo-plastic braces in various colours and styles. Remaining true to the original function of the brace, these stylised pieces hold the waist in tight and accentuate the hips, exaggerating a shape which echoes an hour glass figure. No longer does the brace read as medical accoutrement but rather speaks to fashionable ideals of beauty and sexuality.
Alongside these powerful anchors, SHOWstudio presented an array of items from innovators in fashion and art who embrace augmentation and aesthetics in tackling the idea of bodily enhancement and extension. Medical anomalies and instruments were often housed in early nineteenth century curiosity cabinets, but SHOWstudio chose to include artwork by Una Burke, Aimee Mullins, Betony Vernon, Kat Marks, Patrick Ian Hartley, Dai Rees, Kyle Hopkins, Ana Rajcevic, Naomi Filmer, Tara Dougans and Yiqing Yin as a means to probe the potential in prosthetics. The display was also accompanied by a series of events and discussion geared towards exploring the creative industries' capabilities to expand perceptions of prosthetics.
Special thanks to Proportion London