Week 6 Going Gray--Shiwei Huang

Kathy Brew’s exhibit challenges the social attitude towards aging. She started to dye her hair since when her hair first started to go gray. She accepted aging and stopped dying her hair when she was 50. Although most people would admit that dying hair is time consuming and the chemicals are carcinogenic, people would still do it since they live in an ageist society. People have come up with all types of “euphemisms” to refer to old people, such as old goat, fossil, and past one’s prime. These words are full of humiliations. Our society is an ageist society. For instance, employers want to hire young people instead of older people. Our society is also a sexist society as a woman with gray hair will be considered as old and a man with gray hair will be considered as mature. I think Brew’s work has successfully addressed people’s efforts and attitude on anti-aging, and she has challenged this attitude and called for a different one towards aging. I like her exhibit, and I think it’s easier for me to accept this type of art form than Orlan’s performance. I think Orlan didn’t have to record the process of the surgery to raise the issues regarding plastic surgery since Brew didn’t use any extreme measures to address the issue of aging.

These are the photos of Kathy Brew herself when she stopped to dye her hair.

The euphemisms to describe old people.

Bio art is always controversial and hard to define. It also raises many ethic issues about the use of animals in art and issues about the definition of property. For instance, the GloFish was intended for sale as a fluorescent fish at pet store, but protesters were worried about if the GloFish were set free in nature. An artist named Larry Miller designed a legal document, which intended to claim his own DNA. It raised the questions like, whether the genetic materials belong to an individual. Also, if the genetic materials are modified, does the individual still have the claim. It can be related to the issue of HeLa cells.

The video about the HeLa cells and the interview with Rebecca Scoot talks about the immortal cell lines. Henrietta Lacks was an African American women who had cervical cancer. When she was receiving treatment, some of her cancerous tissues were removed by her doctor without her consent. The doctor had good intention, and he wanted to study the cells so that he could find a way to cure the disease. After a few years, Lacks died, and her cells ended up in research labs all over the world, but her family members was unaware of it. The cell line is known as HeLa cell line. Rebecca Skloot wrote about the life and family members of Henrietta Lacks in her book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” It was shocking to know that their family no benefit from the immortal cell lines, and they could not afford medical insurance. Since these cells were the cell lines of the cells taken from Henrietta Lacks’s body, can Henrietta Lacks’ family claim to be the owner of the cells and gain benefit from them?

The book cover of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.