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Human oil: From magic and medicine to art

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During research for my artistic project involving human fat/oil I discovered a wide range of historic reference of its use. The extraction and use of human oil has not only been present in myths and magical rituals but also practically used for medicinal healing and skincare. Allegedly hunted down by Peruvian Pishtacos, who then sold it to the cosmetic industry, it was also extracted for use in pain relief or healing of adherent scars, as well as an ingredient for use in black magic. Human oil was sought as a lucrative product for centuries until early 1900. The proposal of my project HUMANOIL is a follow-up from my previous work where biofuel was made from my own fat. HUMANOIL will involve rendering human oil, the last oil produced, from my body, sought to offer anointing, white magic or pure skincare – your choice.
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Keywords: alchemy; bioart; body art; corpse medicine; magic; self-mining

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: i/o/lab – Centre for Future Art

Publication date: December 1, 2018

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  • Technoetic Arts focuses upon the juncture between art, technology and the mind. Divisions between academic areas of study, once rigidly fixed, are gradually dissolving due to developments in science and cultural practice. This fusion has had a dramatic effect upon the scope of various disciplines. In particular, the profile of art has radically evolved in our present technological culture
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