Kate Cooper

'Symptom Machine'

Kate Cooper’s computer-generated (CG) video works grapple with ideas related to the production and consumption of images, testing the boundaries of representation. The artist animates bodies in acts of labor, weaponizing these digitized models against forms of exploitation. Her CG figures move and buckle under a matrix of invisible forces, becoming emblematic of the constraints that human bodies face in a world of ubiquitous virtual platforms and rapidly increasing technological advances.

Signature image for Kate Cooper exhibition
Kate Cooper, "Rigged," 2014, video still. Courtesy of the artist.

Cooper utilizes techniques from domestic and commercial image production. Her works feature hyper-idealized subjects: slim, able-bodied, female figures in unattainably pristine, minimal spaces. Flawless and nondescript, these CG figures reflect the images that pervade every aspect of our lives, from aspirational athleisure advertisements to the proliferation of altered photos on social media. Built from generic, downloadable models usually bought for marketing purposes, they echo their intended use for a variety of commercial applications. Using these surrogates, Cooper maps the all-consuming visual infrastructures of contemporary capital and technology onto body and image. Both artist and viewer navigate the confines of an overarching consumerist aesthetic.

Despite a surface implication of bodily perfection, the artist’s ciphers feel the effects of their labor and present characteristics typical of physical deterioration: they bleed, bruise, fall ill, and are subjected to violence. As a proxy for real human bodies, the figures articulate a space in which to examine the demands of total participation in labor under the tensile forces of contemporary hypercapitalism. They battle within themselves, finding their function and autonomy. Cooper approaches the creation and manipulation of these CG bodies with a logic informed by the movement of a virus within the body’s “sanctuary sites,” vulnerable areas such as the central nervous system where antiviral drugs cannot easily penetrate. This motif remains particularly poignant as the world grapples with the major disruptions to life under capitalist systems in the context of a still-unfolding pandemic.

The exhibition presents four of Cooper’s films — Rigged (2014), We Need Sanctuary (2016), Symptom Machine (2017), and Infection Drivers (2018) — projected simultaneously within an immersive installation produced in collaboration with Theo Cook, with sound design by musical artist Bonaventure.

About the artist

Kate Cooper (b. 1984, Liverpool, U.K.) lives and works in London and Amsterdam. She has presented recent solo exhibitions at Hayward Gallery, London; A Tale of a Tub, Rotterdam; and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Cooper’s works have been included in group exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Riga Photography Biennial; Sonic Acts, Amsterdam; Public Art Fund, New York; International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam; International Center of Photography, New York; Serralves Museum, Porto, Portugal; and Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, among others. She has been awarded residencies at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, and the Saari Residence in Hietamäki, Finland.

Install Views


Symptom Machine is curated by Ben Tollefson, associate curator. It is presented as part of SCAD deFINE ART 2021, the university’s annual program of exhibitions, lectures, and performances, held virtually Feb. 23–25 with select events in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.

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