09/26/2014 01:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rachel Lee Hovnanian's Genetically Modified Dystopia


Installation view of Rachel Lee Hovnanian's Perfect Baby Showroom at the Leila Heller Gallery, 2014

Enter Rachel Lee Hovnanian's Perfect Baby Showroom and you'll find a sterile laboratory-like room where you can choose a perfect plastic baby. Nine realistic looking infant prototypes sit in incubators with pillows stuffed with fruity cereal. They are the size and weight of a typical newborn baby, and were given names like "The Chris" and "The Morgan." These names correspond to hashtags on Instagram that map out the infants' flawless futures-they all become successful doctors, artists, Fulbright scholars, and Tour de France winners.

Knowing these fictional babies' futures instantly comments on the consumer's need for immediate gratification. Genetically engineered babies seem almost a product of a dystopian future. Yet, increasingly our culture relies on manufacturing products that are both genetically modified and instantly gratifying.

In the 1960s, genetically modified, sugary cereals were marketed to moms along with many other products that cut down on cooking time and housework. Decades later, the Baby Boomer generation is suffering from the adverse health effects of a genetically modified diet.

From now through September 21, "Instant Gratification," a four-day pop-up cereal bar in SoHo will serve complimentary Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Wheaties, as well as free WiFi and charging stations.

With her other interactive installations, sculpture, video and photography, Hovnanian explores society's dependence on technology. Images of couples lying in bed together futuristically illuminated by their smart phones parallel the plastic infants incubated in the next room.

"Plastic Perfect" will be on view at the Leila Heller Gallery through October 18.

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