H is for Healthy

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I made "H is for Healthy” in 2019 and presented it during my graduation from the Photography Department at the Royal Academy of the Arts in The Hague. I felt it was a bit like a gateway drug. It’s the first project in which my initial thoughts about the wellness industry got crystallized. I started by questioning where the will to educate ends and where the selling pitch starts.
My approach in tackling the visual side of the project was rational. I made an inventory of all possible new-age-y therapies one could undergo and then I went about illustrating them, while also attempting to subvert them. It was my first brush with the iconic goop - the multi-million dollar wellness and lifestyle brand run by Gwyneth Paltrow.
I believe Gwyneth has a natural, effortless look and she is super popular because she’s coming up with treatments that make a buzz in the media. One such treatment: vagina steaming. Additionally, she sells a candle that smells like her vagina. No matter the effectiveness of these products, what’s clear is that Gwyneth can sell. She also made the news when a woman undergoing bee sting acupuncture died because of the venom that entered her body.
Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the wellness gurus that endorse apitherapy. Apitherapy is a branch of alternative medicine that uses honey bee products, including honey, pollen, bee venom, propolis, and royal jelly. Within apitherapy, bee venom can have a positive effect, but sometimes, like in this case, things can go down the wrong path.
These anecdotes and varied therapies ended up being the inspiration for my graduation project and they ended up inspiring an art installation, like an abstract world where these ideas about our bodies and health can be stored.
Other therapies I illustrated within this project: the coffee enema and the garra fish pedicure.
A coffee enema is a colon cleanse used in alternative medicine. It has a double purpose, one is for the cleansing of your intestines, which is believed to be important and the other is to provide a good dose of caffeine to your liver, which is believed to help the liver detox more efficiently.
Within the garra fish pedicure, the fish are set loose in the water and end up eating the dead skin off one’s feet. In order to do this, the fish are starved in advance. The practice has its dose of animal cruelty, but it’s also not particularly hygienic to share the same fish with other people.
The not yet regulated wellness industry is built on extreme, unsustainable diets and detox advice, bee sting acupuncture, or regular colonics. As the wellness myths are spreading, the trust in reliable science decreases. In this age of misinformation, fake news, and twisted science, we should ask ourselves: where does the will to educate end and where does the selling pitch start?

Installation view, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Graduation Show 2019

'Self Care', part of "H is for Healthy"

Detail, Exhibition view, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Graduation Show 2019

'What we can't see', part of "H is for Healthy"

'In circles', part of "H is for Healthy"

Detail, Exhibition view, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Graduation Show 2019

Detail, Exhibition view, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Graduation Show 2019

'The Ground Under our Feet', part of "H is for Healthy"

Detail, Exhibition view, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, Graduation Show 2019