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Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, “Body Bubbles” (2023)
Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, “Body Bubbles” (2023)Courtesy of the artists

This disturbing ASMR art takes us inside the human body

New exhibition Spora is a collaboration between Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, and uses ‘ASMR uncomfortableness’ to expose the unseen universe of organisms inhabiting our bodies

As humans, we tend to think of ourselves as the principal occupants of the world around us. Yet we forget that we ourselves are inhabited by a universe of unseen organisms. Our bodies are ecosystems populated by millions of bacteria and microbes which, according to multidisciplinary artists Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, make possible “nature’s invisible and intelligent systems of continuous decay and spontaneous growth”.

Spora (at Mother London) is the new collaboration by Hardcastle and Cousins which explores these often unnoticed bodily processes so vital for “life; decomposition, transformation and renewal”. Through a series of moving image artworks combining still photography with CGI elements and custom sound design, the exhibition viscerally brings to life and reimagines “the hidden biological alchemy of the female form”. 

We wanted to create visuals that expose the ecosystem of micro-organisms existing within us beyond a surface level,” Hardcastle explains in a conversation over email. “These processes are happening within our body that we may not be aware of, or might be considered as unpalatable.” 

The pair are long-term friends (they met in their late teens on MySpace or maybe Flickr, they can’t quite agree which) and have been looking for opportunities to collaborate. “We always wanted to find a way to work together but it took some time to figure out how we could meet in the middle,” Hardcastle tells Dazed. “That common ground has been ‘ASMR uncomfortableness’.”

Using “larger than life” LED screens (courtesy of KitMapper), the show magnifies the microscopic, bringing you face-to-face with the body’s mysterious chemistry amid a satisfying and compelling (yet vaguely repulsive) cacophony of ASMR moments – the imagined soundtrack of growth, decay, and wetness as organisms crawl and bloom on the flesh and the tongue.

While Hardcastle describes the recurring themes of the show as “tactility, visceral sensuality, and organic alchemy”, the initial inspiration for creating Spora were a few particularly intriguing organisms. “I‘d say our influences started with slime mould which is an intelligent bacteria. The film Fantastic Fungi was another great reference point for this project,” the London-based artist recalls. “I believe in both of our practices we’re seeking to uncover or visualise ‘the unseen’, which in this case is something hidden on a macro level in nature.”

Crucially, the exhibition helps to remind us how extraordinary our bodies actually are and forces us to consider the complex operating systems and processes to which we are largely oblivious. “I believe we’ve become so used to manipulating and pushing our own bodies to act in service to ourselves that we don’t necessarily respect our own bodily signs and rhythms,” Hardcastle explains. “Being in tune with your own body’s design and having an instinctual connection with it is one of the most powerful things you can do as a way of feeling reconnected with the self.”

As well as gaining a greater understanding of our teeming microbiology, the artists hope Spora will also enlarge our appreciation of our bodies in a broader sense. Hardcastle concludes: “I hope it will allow them to embrace the uncomfortableness of the landscape that is our bodies, and further expand their own definitions of physical beauty.”

Spora by Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins is open by appointment only at Mother London (10 Redchurch Street, E2 7DD) from April 14 until April 20 2023. Please DM @luhardcastle or email to book.

Full credits:

Lucy Hardcastle - Creative Director & Producer

Maisie Cousins - Photographer

Elena Charobay - CGI Artist

Kitmapper - AV Sponsor & Install Production

DAM Team - Event Production

Martin Robinson - Technical Director

Billy Brooks - Sound Designer

Lauren Byfield - Model

Isabel Bush - Casting Director

Lynski - Make-up Artist

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