Above: “PULSATION” by Dr. Alex Box

ORGASM, ACTIVATED: A conversation with Dr. Alex Box

The artist discusses her collaboration with NARS Cosmetics and the power of beauty and identity.

Jul 25, 2023 Art

7 months ago

With a distinctly posthumanist bend, the artist Dr. Alex Box has built a career around exploring the limits of identity and self-expression through makeup and beauty, and has pushed those limits at every opportunity. As one of the founding editors of the fashion and art publication King Kong, her artistic practice and philosophy have impacted creative spaces on a global scale, where she has collaborated with designers, musicians, technologists, photographers, and artists across mediums. 

Her latest collaboration for NARS Cosmetics’ ORGASM, ACTIVATED, in partnership with SuperRare, celebrates the legacy and palette of the brand’s Orgasm Collection and represents the intersections of technology, beauty, and the self. The artwork, “PULSATION,” is an AR filter teeming with energy and rendered in the classic pinks and golds of the NARS’ Orgasm shade. Alex spoke to SuperRare Labs Content Strategist Oli Scialdone about “PULSATION,” beauty futurism, and constructing identity through expression.    

Oli Scialdone: Your career has spanned so many spaces, physical and digital. Can you speak a little about your journey from fine arts to the art of beauty, and how web3 fits in? How have you viewed beauty as a form of self-expression, across traditional and digital mediums?

Dr. Alex Box: For me, traversing traditional and emerging spaces is an essential part of the narration and navigation of the body and identity and self expression. We exist on many planes, both physical and digital. My origins in fine art had the body and performance at its core, commenting on beauty symbolism, aesthetic consumption, and desire. Then that lens inverted when my process and practice became desired by the fashion industry and I navigated an unique space within beauty and fashion. I was then able to comment, respond and evolve the narrative from the inside over the last 25 years. Tech has always been a vital material in my creation; its constant evolution of tools and dimensions opens a plethora of new ways to explore the body and identity.  Web3 is presenting possibilities of the body as immersive experience, collective consciousness, an omniversal presence. This capability gives flesh to the  possibilities at a deeper narration of the self beyond the physical and a new aesthetic based in a  more philosophical exploration.  

OS: You’ve described yourself as a “beauty futurist.” What is a futurist perspective on beauty,  and how does it differ from more traditional perspectives? How did this perspective apply in ORGASM, ACTIVATED, where you bring to life an iconic brand and shade as a digital artwork, and what initially drew you to participate in the collaboration?

DAB: A Beauty Futurist perspective encompasses foresight and insight, speculative design and conceptual parallels, that go beyond the physical and material into technological experiential and emotional aspects of beauty. My approach to ORGASM, ACTIVATED was very much an immersive one; both the filter and the artwork are presenting spatial texture, tone and color as an emotional environment, product as experience. Conceptually I was looking to create ‘feeling’ more than seeing, the viewer participating in a ‘moment’ that’s transformative and captures the ‘spirit’ and dimension of the NARS Orgasm range. This iconic brand has a presence of art and sensuality committed to subtlety and complex colour, immersing the viewer in a rich narrative.  As a multidisciplinary artist, I’m drawn to working with brands with whom I share these parallel aesthetics and ethos. 

OS: In a 2022 interview for Wunderman Thomson, you spoke about designing identity, saying that it “traverses both the physical and digital.” What does it mean to design identity? How much can our identities be designed?  Can you give us a glimpse of how you brought this perspective to life throughout the process of creating “PULSATION?”

DAB: Identity Design is to describe the methodology of creative practice in developing identity through the principles of form, function, personhood, aesthetic, ethos, and psychology. As we exist in the multiverse, we are expressing a multiplicity of self, ‘A prismatic Identity.’ These require new forms of visualization and expression ‘design.’ This perspective is brought to life by envisaging the interconnectedness of all things and vibrant matter, the figuration of symbolism and spirituality.

OS: Your artwork “PULSATION” has such a warmth to it–a serene type of energy. Can you speak a little on the piece, the process of making it, and translating it into an AR filter? 

DAB: Thank you, that’s exactly the tone and texture I wanted to convey! The serenity of a state untroubled and transcendent, the twinkling embers after the euphoria, a warm and pulsating after glow . I desired to create an artwork that connected a ‘feeling’ with the viewer, the eyes in the image are closed, suggesting the inner world, traveling into a realm of the senses. For the “PULSATION” piece I used the Metahuman Creator, a digital human configurator. I sculpted a unique human for this project, whose identity I wanted to have a presence that embodied the ‘sense ‘ of ORGASM, ACTIVATED. In the artwork I’ve hand drawn the tonality, dimesson, makeup, and texture using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Blender, adding photographic real life swatches of makeup. The AR filter translated the immersive and transformational sensual experience of orgasm, which is a similar transformational dimension to makeup–both makeup and orgasms exist through connection with the skin. The movement in the filter allows me to create visual  poetry imagining the inner kinetic journey and felt experience.

OS: What were the attributes of NARS’ Orgasm shade that inspired the piece? 

DAB: It’s movement and emotional quality but also its paradox, its mercurial subtle shifts are delicate yet boldly complex, capable of depth and dimension, euphoric and serene in equal measures, much like an orgasm itself.

View ORGASAM, ACTIVATED here on SuperRare.

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Oliver Scialdone

Oliver Scialdone is a queer writer and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. They earned a dual-MFA from The New School, and their work can be found in Peach Mag, ImageOut Write, and elsewhere. They used to host the reading series Satellite Lit and they're the Associate Editor at SuperRare Magazine.

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