India Bruckner

Art & Philosophy BA (Hons)

A commentary on the ethics of the insulin industry: combining the artificial and the organic, and exploring the dichotomy of the capitalist and the cone snail.


In 1921, insulin was discovered. Two years later a process to manufacture it was patented for $1, in such a way that - in the words of Michael Bliss - "anyone would be free to prepare the extract, but no one could secure a profitable monopoly". In 2021, pharmaceutical titan Novo Nordisk - a supplier of insulin to the NHS - made over $52 billion in revenue. 

In "Sick Woman Theory", Hedva writes that “capitalism cannot be responsible for our care - its logic of exploitation requires that some of us die.” This exhibition is a response to the claim of a Novo Nordisk executive that the company’s true objective is to eradicate diabetes. In the unfinished phrase “if this should mean the end of us,” the end of corporate profit hangs in the balance against the innumerable lives ended by financial barriers to accessing insulin.

Other than the capitalist, the only creature known to weaponise insulin is the cone snail. This body of work seeks to invoke the spirit of the cone snail as a call to retaliate against corporations that restrict access to life-sustaining medication in order to generate profit. Clay and wax are used as proxies for the human body, interspersed with the cast-off remnants of industrialised medicine. Drawing on the concept of the vegetal soul as described by Aristotle, light serves as a unifying element, signifying the persistence of life under hostile conditions.

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