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 Cassandra Sechler's interests lie in subcultures, "freaks," technology, science, and what defines beauty and normalcy in our society.

In her most recent project, she has devoted her time  in learning about and being inspired by those who have triumphed in using technology to enhance their lives and selves.

The idealism of beauty and perfection in our society as well as our increasing obsession with technology unites in Belle Nouveau.

cindy jackson before and after imageCindy Jackson, first "living doll"

Cindy Jackson, who still holds the guiness world record  for having the most plastic surgery, said it best regarding plastic surgery as a means to an end of achieving beauty goals: “There are so many people who are being held back by their looks, and if that can help give them a better quality of life and make them happier – what else is more important in life?” Jackson finally feels that after years of altering her face and body that she has reached all of her goals and is ready to concentrate on new things.

Many people have benefited from both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
connie culp before and after
Connie Culp, successful face transplant subject

Connie Culp was shot in the face by her husband, leaving her face severely disfigured. Recently, under experimental plastic surgery, doctors were able to give Culp  "new" face from a dead person.

 The strength that this woman has to continue is an amazing showcase of adaptability to the drastic transformation made possible by technology.
Other  people use plastic surgery to achieve a purpose beyond facial reconstruction or standard nose jobs in order to meet a particular aesthetic. For example, Jocelyn Wildenstein is an aristocrat who has had multiple cosmetic procedures in order to appear more "cat-like." Contrary to how many people view this behavior, it is not so different from british beauty Sarah Burge, who claims to be the "Real Life Barbie." She, like Cindy Jackson, always dreamed of becoming more like this idealized, plastic queen. All three of them seem to be trying to fit a visualized ideal of themselves.

Wildenstein is not the only person out there who wishes she posessesed more animal-like qualities. The subculture of "Furries" have animal fetishes and often try to acquire body modifications to enhance their wishes. This is often done through tongue splitting, ear "elfing," teeth filing, full body tattoos, under-the-skin piercings, and hair implants. Some procedures are even illegal.
denis avner, cat man
Denis Avner, AKA "Stalking Cat"

 jocelyn wildenstein, the real catwoman
Jocelyn Wildenstein, the "real cat woman"



Is there really a difference in what any of these people are trying to achieve?

What it comes down to is transformation and what route people want to take in order to become something that they are not naturally.

To what extent will people take their desire for perfection in the near future? Will advanced prosthetics become availbale to those who can afford them who don't necessarily need them? Will the way we define and accept beauty change drastically along with technology?
                               


raymond kurzweil, transhumanist and futurist
Raymond Kurzweil, Transhumanist

Ray Kuzweil is optimistic about the future. From his standpoint as a Futurist and Transhumanist advocate, Kurzweil feels that by 2050 technology and science will have reached a point where people will be living longer, richer, better, technologically enhanced lives.


Other writers and theorists feel similarly to this. Nick Bolstrom, founder of the Transhumanist movement, and Joel Garreau have written in praise of GRIN (genetics, robotics, artificial intelligence/ information technology, and nanotechnology) technologies and are also mostly optimistic about the possibilities that are at our feet.

The way that these men feel is that if the technology is there, and it can help advance our society, then we should, by any means necessary, push that to the forefront.


nady vessey mermaid prosthetic
Nadya Vessey with mermaid prosthetic
Aimee Mullins, double amputee, athlete, model
aimee mullins with cheetah laegs
So much has been attained through technology in creating  prosthetics for those with particular needs. It is interesting to think that those disabled are more enabled than "regular" people.

Aimee Mullins spoke at the TED conference in January, 2009, about her BIONIC legs, the potential of the human body, and the interest that so many people have in our creative powers in altering ourselves. Nadya Vessey, who lost both her legs in her childhood had a prosthetic mermaid tail made by Peter Jackson's WETA workshop so that she could swim in style. Other amputees are embracing their differences and exploring, and in some cases, exploiting their transformed bodies. Take amputee fetish queen Viktoria, for example, who is seen as one of the sexiest amputee models today.
B.I.I.D. (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) is a condition where people wish to have perfectly good limbs amputated or paralyzed in order to fulfill their wish of attaining a body that they see as ideal. Filmmkaer Melody Gilbert's Whole explores this desire to deform ones self.

One wonders if in the future this will still be considered a disorder. As technologies become more advanced, won't ordinary citizens wish to alter themselves so that they are also enabled?

Even to most "sane" people, bionic devices seduce and intrigue us. We technically have the power to rebuild ourselves. People who consider themselves cyborgs constantly try to find ways to improve or add onto exhisting senses while finding connections to human-machine interfaces.

Many other artists besides Cassandra Sechler are working with the transformative and elastic qualities of the human body as an art form.

French artist Orlan has gone through plastic surgery in her art as a means of commenting on what defines beauty.

Another artist who deals with the body as a catalyst for art is Stelarc, who in his most recent piece, found a medical doctor who was willing to implant a cell-cultivated ear beneath the skin on the his forearm.




prosthetic arm left
advanced prosthetic arm
 Technology is helping advance those with lost limbs in creating prosthetics that work incredibly well with the body.
One patient has been named the "4 million dollar woman" due to her prosthetic arm that was extremely costly but well worth the money.
Dean Kamen is another person whose arm amazes doctors, amputees, and those interested in the technologies of prosthetics. The main aim is to have the human machine connection more naturally for people so that it is like the real thing, if not better.                                         
doctors gathering over a patient during plastic surgery
doctors gathering over Sechler