An extension of his previous body of work, which focused on the remediation of living processes through modern technology as to weave perceptions of man back into nature and dissolve notions of otherness between organisms; Cody Lukas’s recent solo exhibition, OTHER, narrows in on various expressions of otherness from his own experiences, as they relate to larger social constructs.
The first of which, A simple act of masochism, explores the dynamic between mankind and other living organisms; where normative perceptions rest mankind at the apex of Darwinian evolution, due mainly to our supposed superior intellectual capabilities, however overlooking our regular execution of self harmful actions in our day-to-day lives.
For Cody, this does not manifest itself it the acts of smoking or excessive drinking, but rather his passion for the sport of rowing. An activity that he trains for on average 12 times a week, leaving his hands blistered, calloused and bleeding. An action that has caused him to have a hernia at the age of 19, increases his likelihood of dying earlier at an old age from a heart attack, and left many of his friends with discus collapses before the age of 18. Viewed objectively, rowing shows to be a completely masochistic act.
Rather than depict the ailments that arise from this sport as a representation of this irrational aspect of his everyday life, Cody remediates the process in the gallery, daring viewers to carry out a similar illogical act of their own.
Over the course of a standard 2-kilometer rowing race, Cody generates an average of 381 Watt of energy for over 6 minutes. As energy is neither created nor destroyed, merely converted from one form to another, this electrical energy is equivalent to the physical strain that is placed on his body during that period of time. Suspended in the gallery viewers are confronted with two electrically charged rowing oars, cast from the artist’s own blades, allowing them to choose, of their own free will, to carry out a simple act of masochism and electrocute themselves in the space.
A simple act of masochism, exploring the place of masochistic action within the human condition is paralleled within the exhibition with a smaller complimentary work. War on Nature, is a photo series and film installation that depicts silhouettes of trees cast by fireworks on New Year’s Eve 2018, hereby contextualised within the scope of a societal act of warfare on the environment, an often incorrectly perceive form of Other that is understood as the nature-culture divide.
Looking at forms of Other as they exist between humans, the exhibition sets themes of gender and sexuality in opposition to one another, in terms of their relationship with the artist’s lived experience. The former, a category in which Cody finds himself within in the perceived majority, not as a male but a CIS gendered male; meaning he identifies with the gender he was ascribed at birth. The latter, which explores otherness within the scope of sexuality, is one in which he finds himself within the perceived minority. In this way, the pieces attempt to interpret the subject matter from a place of objectivity however recognising the artist’s inescapable subjective relationship with the subject matter.
L’homme qui marche (The walking man) explores the portrayal of the male gender in art, referencing the works of August Rodin and Alberto Giacometti. Here Cody studies the pieces, of same material, motif and title, as a linear progression of perceptions of gender over time from the 19th and 20th century, recognising the artists’ reliance upon the physicality of the subject as to convey gender. Recreating the work for the 21st century, in a time when the correlation between an individual’s sex and gender no longer exist, and gender is one’s own subjective interpretation of a construct, of which they choose whether or not to identify, the piece takes the form of a bronze cast strap-on dildo.
Taking into account Rodin and Giacometti’s relation to contemporary art of their time, the phallic symbol for the male gender is paired with a body length mirror, in keeping with the 21st century’s heightened interest in interactive art and the inclusion of the audience into the artwork itself, as to allow any individual to choose whether of not to wear the strap-on at the exhibition, regardless of their physical sex, thus becoming the third walking man in the series.
Once again it should be noted this interpretation of gender is coming from an artist living in the perceived majority, as a CIS gendered male, and the work welcomes future continuations of the series, leading to questions as to how the male gender may be portrayed in the 22nd century and beyond.
Designing Gay Babies, is created in response to the announcement made at the end of 2018 about the successful delivery of 2 twin girls who had been genetically modified with HIV resistance, calling into question the place of various minority groups in a genetically designed future. To this effect, the mixed media installation presents audiences with information regarding advances in the fields of genetic modification along with epigenetic studies of homosexuality in men; such as the development of a machine learning algorithm capable of determining with 70% accuracy a males sexual orientation purely looking at 9 sites along the human genome, or studies showing that gay males tend to score higher on metrics of cooperation and compassion and lower on metrics of hostility.
Amidst the DIY age, where anyone can get there hands on the technology for bio hacking and genetic engineering online, Cody focuses on the evolutionary advantages that this specific category of Other, to which he belongs, brings to society, and challenges viewers to think about, living in a time where it is okay to be gay, whether anyone would actively choose it?
This piece also includes the presence of yeast and E.coli cultures, genetically modified with antibiotic resistance as well as components from a DIY CRISPR Genetic Modification Kit purchased online.
Lastly, the entire exhibition, contextualised as a self-reflective exploration of otherness amongst humans, culminates itself in a self portrait. An animated creation compiled from images of the artist, distorted and morphed into its own form of Other.