Hacking the self: Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s INSIDER. Reviewed by Helena Vilalta

Medically scrutinized, assisted and subdued male anatomical models fle through Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s eight-minute video Seroquel® (2014), the central work in her 2014 exhibition ‘INSIDER’ at Cubitt, London. Appropriated from promotional videos advertising pharmaceutical products, these clips make the depths of the human body and psyche visible to the naked eye, creating an illusion of total transparency that carries Julien Ofray de la Mettrie’s eighteenth-century man-cum-machine thesis to its logical conclusion: if our bodies and minds are but sophisticated machines, they can also be programmed and monetized ([1748] 1994). The stakes in the commodifcation of healthcare are brought home by the voice-over: a scripted conversation between a mother and daughter, read by writer, performer and self-empowerment speaker Lydia Lunch. ‘Mum, why do I feel dead inside?’, the daughter asks, to which the mother replies with a didactic take on the death drive, describing how legal and medical institutions have historically sought to foght of self-destructive thoughts in the fear that they might curtail productivity. The format of the dialogue is loosely based on conversations that anthropologist and cybernetics theorist Gregory Bateson staged with his own daughter ([1972] 2008). While these were intended to prove the influence of feedback systems in our perception of the world and others, in Seroquel® the invention of cybernetics in the post-war period is linked to more ominous developments: the implementation of soft forms of governance, such as psychiatric drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy, and their manufacture of what the voice-over dubs ‘the industrial complex of your emotions’’. Read more>