The earliest known examples of animal testing date back to Early Greek physicians like Aristotle and Erasistratus. Since then, animals such as rats, rabbits, and guinea pigs have continuously been utilized for biomedical testing. These animals are selected because they all have biological similarities that mirror certain aspects of humans, including a similar immune system and follicle reactions to chemical compounds. Because of this, these animals are subjected to a myriad of tests in order to draw inferences between the way the animal reacts and how a human would react under the same conditions. It makes sense that certain industries, such as those involved in cancer research, continue to utilize animals over humans when working towards creating cures for diseases because it is drastically less dangerous to test on animals. However, there are some industries that have carried on using animals as test subjects for far too long.
One such industry is the cosmetics industry. It has been proven countless times that this industry, which generated $460 billion globally in 2014, has been using animals as test subjects for no reason for years. Not only have there been huge steps taken to develop cosmetic tests that remove the animal from the testing process, but the results yielded during these tests on animals do not hold any correlation when translated over into the human world. While the animals used do share some biological similarities that prove to be beneficial for biomedical research, it does not hold the same truth with cosmetics, as these are products created solely to be worn on the exterior of the human body and are therefore formulated specifically with this idea in mind. Nonetheless, there are still places across the globe that legally require companies to test on and abuse animals for results that have proven to be insufficient.
This series of three-dimensional works, entitled “Cosmeholics” applies packaging of cosmetic products currently on the market in order to open up a conversation about the unethical practices that exist within the beauty industry. The title for this series takes inspiration from the word “alcoholic,” which can be used to describe an individual who has an addiction to a substance they know is bad for them but that they are unable to quit. In this instance, this connotation is meant to imply that an individual has a problem that they are unable to quit – namely being a consumer who supports animal testing (whether they know it or not) but shows no signs of acknowledging the problem or stopping.
With this series of works, viewers are meant to draw connections between the products they see displayed before them to what exists on the shelves of retail stores like Ulta and Sephora, but experience a sense of awkwardness as they interact and explore the works that on are a much larger scale than normal products. The larger scale also helps to amplify the text on each package, forcing the viewer to be confronted by words such as “corrosion” and “corruption,” urging them to take into consideration the actions taken against the animals during these testing periods. Viewers will come face to face with an inversion of what they thought to be correct the more they interact with what exists inside the packaging in order to create visceral reactions about the cruelties that exist in our society today for the promotion of beauty.
Cosmeholics is comprised of four different three-dimensional objects that are all representative of cosmetic products that have connections to the tests run within cosmetic animal testing. Each of the forms chosen draws direct inspiration from products on that market, in order to facilitate the viewers’ ability to make connections between the objects before them and the ones they may encounter in a retail store. This work recreates lipstick, mascara, foundation, and single eyeshadow packages because each of these items corresponds with eye and skin irritation tests that are run. When creating this work, I tried to keep the design elements as close to the original inspiration, while using synonyms of the product names utilized by the actual company so that viewers who have a knowledge of cosmetics may easily make the desired connections.
Of the four different works in this series, each one has at least one set of prints that was made on a neutral-colored paper, whether that be black or white. The use of neutral colors allows for the design elements to speak for themselves and is very representative of the sleek packaging utilized today by many cosmetic companies. The mascara package and the eyeshadow package of a series of prints that were printed on different colored paper, but with the same ink colors as the neutral prints. The use of different colors works to obscure some elements of each package, forcing the viewers to pick up the boxes to work with them closely in order to completely decipher what is being presented to them. Furthermore, this series was reproduced and displayed with multiple versions of each print to be indicative of an experience one might have in an actual retail store that sold cosmetics. In stores like Ulta and Sephora, products are not displayed alone but are rather displayed in bulk, which is what I worked to represent here. I wanted to fill the display space in a similar manner as the way shelves are filled with products so that viewers experience a slight sense of being overwhelmed with the amount of products while also filling the space to mimic a sense of enclosure, as the animals may feel while being trapped in the laboratories.
This series of objects works to exploit my knowledge of the practices within the beauty industry to create a series of objects meant to cause individuals to question their consumer habits and take a closer look at what their support of certain companies does for the advancement, or lack thereof, of ethical standards around the globe. My hope is that viewers will leave this exhibition more informed on the corrupt practices behind one of the largest global industries, and have a strong desire to make actual changes to their shopping patterns to help enact changes towards increasing more sustainable practices for the future of the beauty industry as a whole.