Kate Cooper ‘Symptom Machine’ at the Hayward Gallery

Kate Cooper ‘Symptom Machine’ at the Hayward Gallery


A woman’s body is a site that has been much contested over the last fifty years or so. At the same time it is clear that a lot of women have more power and status than they used to have. It seems a little out of kilter  therefor with the current mood to watch the abuses inflicted on the computer generated female figures in this three screen video installation.


The imagery is belligerent. We see a figure writhing in a body suit made of a sort of pearly cling-film.  Another figure drags herself along a moving conveyor belt on which a pair of diseased and mottled fingers grope their way towards her.




I am reminded of a mediaeval image created in the aftermath of the Black Death of three blackened cadavers dancing with crowns on their heads. Blood spatters and cells seem to mutate. It is all horrible but also mesmerising. Visitors seemed to find it hard to drag themselves away.


She talks about thinking about the ‘way that images themselves function like viruses, constantly spreading and multiplying. She has also says that in her research she looked at the way in which some viruses and diseases behave, specifically the way that certain types of cancer can occupy hidden spaces within the body – so called ‘sanctuary sites’ – where they can grow without being detected.’


This is powerful stuff which is also highly accomplished.  It will certainly stay with you although you may well regret seeing it.


Kate Cooper ‘Symptom Machine’ is at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank until 22 June.






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