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Lauren Lee McCarthy:
Bodily Autonomy

March 2-May 25, 2024

For the past fifteen years, Lauren Lee McCarthy has worked in performance, video, installation, software, artificial intelligence, and other media to address how an algorithmically determined world impacts human relationships and social life. Bodily Autonomy is McCarthy’s largest solo exhibition in the United States to date.

The show brings together two major works —Surrogate and Saliva—to examine bio-surveillance. Surrogate takes the form of performances, videos, and installations wherein McCarthy offers her body up as a remote-controlled surrogate to individuals and couples interested in having a child. This proposition is never fully realized by the artist, but it prompts important conversations regarding familial norms, legal barriers, genetic manipulation, gender, and reproduction. Saliva is a series of performances, installations, and videos about DNA sampling and data harvesting through the routine collection of swabs and spit. In a newly commissioned installation at the Mandeville Art Gallery, as a counter-gesture McCarthy has devised a saliva exchange station where visitors can trade their own samples with one another through the assistance of an attendant. The process sidesteps the anonymity of medical and corporate entities, and invites active discussions on data privacy, race, gender, and class as they pertain to genetic material. Together, Surrogate and Saliva encourage a potent and timely dialogue regarding bodily autonomy in times of rapid technological development and increased corporate and government surveillance.

Bodily Autonomy marks the official premiere of Saliva and Surrogate, both Creative Capital–funded projects.

[Images: Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy Installation Views, Mandeville Art Gallery, March 2-May 25, 2024 (Photos by Pablo Mason, Adrian-Dre Diaz and Millie Root)]


Artist Biography

Lauren Lee McCarthy (she/they) examines social relationships in the context of automation, surveillance, and algorithmic living. She has received grants and residencies from Creative Capital, United States Artists, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sundance, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works, Autodesk, and Ars Electronica. Her work SOMEONE was awarded the Ars Electronica Golden Nica and the Japan Media Arts Social Impact Award, and her work LAUREN was awarded the IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction. Her work has been exhibited internationally, at the Barbican Centre, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Haus der elektronischen Künste, the Seoul Museum of Art, Chronus Art Center, SIGGRAPH, Onassis Cultural Center, IDFA DocLab, Science Gallery Dublin, the Japan Media Arts Festival, and beyond. McCarthy is the creator of p5.js, an open-source art and education platform that prioritizes access and diversity in learning to code, with more than ten million users. She expanded on this work in her time on the board of directors for the Processing Foundation (2015–21), whose mission is to serve those who have historically not had access to technology, code, and art in learning software and visual literacy. McCarthy is a professor at UCLA Design Media Arts. She holds an MFA from UCLA and bachelor’s degrees in computer science and art and design from MIT.

Public Programs

Saturday, March 2, 2024, 2–6 pm: Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy opening celebration

This event coincides with the Graduate Open Studios at the Visual Arts Facility. Open Studios will feature MFA and PhD artists’ open studios, exhibitions, screenings, and publications produced in the Department of Visual Arts.

Every Thursday, 6-8pm Weekly activations of Saliva Bar by UC San Diego students

Graduate Student Lunchtime Lectures

Guided by the themes and topics of Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy, UC San Diego graduate students present their own research and work.

  • Thursday April 18, 12:30-1:30pm by Doreen A. Ríos (PhD Candidate in Art History, Theory, and Criticism, Independent Curator & Researcher)

Monthly Lunchtime Curator-Led Tours

Curator Dr. Ceci Moss leads a free tour of the exhibition Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy

  • Thursday, March 7, 2024, 12:30–1:30 pm
  • Thursday, April 4, 2024, 12:30–1:30 pm
  • Thursday, May 9, 2024, 12:30–1:30pm


All events are free and take place in person at the Mandeville Art Gallery unless indicated otherwise.

Saliva Bar FAQ

What is the Saliva Bar?

Visitors to Bodily Autonomy are invited to participate in a saliva exchange presented as a newly commissioned installation at Mandeville Art Gallery.

Visitors will be asked to spit into a vial, capturing a sample of their own saliva in exchange for someone else’s. They will then be guided through a personalized saliva selection experience where they choose the perfect sample to collect based on the donor’s self-described physical, personality, and lifestyle characteristics.

Devised as a counter-gesture to the routine collection of swabs and DNA samples—such as those related to medical protocols, COVID-19 testing, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing services—the Saliva Bar sidesteps the anonymity of medical and corporate entities, and invites active discussions on data privacy, race, gender, and class as they pertain to the intimacy of our genetic material.

How does the Saliva Bar work?

Participation in the Saliva Bar is on a first come, first served basis. Visitors to the exhibition who chose to participate will be guided by a trained gallery attendant through the process of donating a sample of their own saliva and selecting someone else’s to take home.

During the exchange, attendants will ask visitors to spit into a vial and complete a form describing their informational profile. Next, donors will specify the terms of use of their own saliva sample. Once their intake is complete, their spit is filed into the collection on display. Then, in consultation with the attendant, donors can review available samples and select a vial to take home.

What safety measures will be in place at the Saliva Bar?

The Mandeville Art Gallery team is committed to the utmost safety of Saliva Bar participants and other gallery visitors. All Saliva Bar attendants are trained volunteers who will be provided with PPE, and given single-use equipment to capture saliva donations. All saliva samples will be collected and securely stored in medical-grade sealed vials. In addition, the vials for the saliva samples contain a strong disinfectant solution in order to dissolve all contaminants.

If you have any safety-related questions or concerns, please feel free to reach us at

When can I participate in the Saliva Bar?

The Saliva Bar will be activated on Thursday evenings from 6-8pm throughout the run of the exhibition. Trained gallery attendants will be present to facilitate saliva exchanges.


March 7, 2024
March 14, 2024
March 21, 2024
April 4, 2024 (co-presented with WOW Festival)
April 11, 2024
April 18, 2024
April 25, 2024
May 2, 2024
May 9, 2024
May 16, 2024
May 23, 2024

Leer en español

Lauren Lee McCarthy: Autonomía corporal

Del 2 de marzo al 25 de mayo de 2024

A lo largo de los últimos quince años, Lauren Lee McCarthy ha trabajado con medios como performance, video, instalación, software, inteligencia artificial, entre otros para abordar el modo en el que un mundo algorítmicamente determinado impacta las relaciones humanas y la vida social. Bodily Autonomy (Autonomía corporal) es la exposición individual más grande hasta la fecha de McCarthy en Estados Unidos.

La exhibición reúne dos de sus obras más importantes —Surrogate (Subrogada) y Saliva—que investigan la bio-vigilancia. Surrogate (Subrogada) es una pieza que incluye performances, videos e instalaciones en donde McCarthy ofrece su cuerpo como subrogada a control remoto para individuos o parejas con interés en tener un hijo. La artista no concluye totalmente la propuesta, sin embargo, abre la puerta a conversaciones importantes acerca de las normas familiares, de los límites legales, de la manipulación genética, de la reproducción y del género. Saliva se conforma de una serie de performances, instalaciones y videos acerca de las muestras de ADN y de la información recolectada a través del acopio con hisopos y escupitajos. En una nueva instalación por encargo para la Mandeville Art Gallery, McCarthy expone, a modo de contra-acto, una estación de intercambio de saliva en donde los visitantes pueden canjear sus propias muestras con alguien más por medio de la ayuda de un asistente. El proceso, siendo parte de un material genético, excluye el anonimato de las entidades médicas y corporativas e invita a una discusión activa sobre la privacidad de datos, de raza, de género y de clase. Juntas, Surrogate (Subrogada) y Saliva fomentan un diálogo poderoso y oportuno en cuanto a la autonomía del cuerpo en una época en donde el desarrollo tecnológico va rápidamente y existe un aumento en la vigilancia corporativa y gubernamental.  

Bodily Autonomy (Autonomía corporal) marca el estreno oficial de Saliva y Surrogate (Subrogada) ambos proyectos financiados por Creative Capital.

Acerca de la artista

Lauren Lee McCarthy examina las relaciones sociales dentro del contexto de la automatización, de la vigilancia y de la vida algorítmica. Ha recibido becas y residencias de Creative Capital, United States Artists, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sundance, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works, Autodesk y Ars Electronica. Su obra SOMEONE (ALGUIEN) fue ganadora del premio Ars Electronica Golden Nica y del Japan Media Arts Social Impact Award, y su obra LAUREN recibió el premio de no ficción inmersiva del IDFA DocLab Award. Su trabajo ha sido expuesto internacionalmente en el Barbican Centre, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Haus der elektronischen Künste, el Seoul Museum of Art, Chronus Art Center, SIGGRAPH, Onassis Cultural Center, IDFA DocLab, Science Gallery Dublin, el Japan Media Arts Festival, entre otros. McCarthy es la creadora de p5.js, una plataforma didáctica de código abierto con más de diez millones de usuarios, dándole prioridad a la diversidad y al acceso para aprender a codificar. La artista trabajó en la expansión de su obra durante su tiempo en la mesa directiva de la Processing Foundation (2015–21), cuya misión es la de servir a aquellos que históricamente no han tenido acceso a la tecnología, a codificar y al poder adquirir un conocimiento en lo visual y en softwares. McCarthy es profesora en UCLA en el departamento de Design Media Arts. Tiene una maestría de UCLA y una licenciatura en Ciencias de la computación, Arte y Diseño de MIT.

Programas públicos

Sábado 2 de marzo del 2024 de 2 a 6 PM: Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy (Lauren Lee Mc Carthy: Anatomía corporal) festejo de inauguración.

Este evento coincide con Open Studios (Estudios Abiertos) de los estudiantes de licenciatura de la facultad de Artes Visuales. Open Studios presentará la obra de artistas de la maestría y del doctorado en su estudio abierto donde se podrán ver exposiciones, proyecciones y publicaciones producidas por el Departamento de Artes Visuales.

Todos los jueves de 6-8pm Activaciones semanales del Saliva Bar (Bar de saliva) por los estudiantes de UC San Diego

Lectura a la hora del almuerzo por los estudiantes de licenciatura

Guiada dentro de los temas y argumentos de Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy (Lauren Lee McCarthy: autonomía corporal), los estudiantes de licenciatura de UC San Diego presentarán sus propias investigaciones y obras.

  • El jueves 18 de abril de 12:30 a 1:30 PM por Doreen A. Ríos (Candidata a Doctorado en Historia del Arte, teoría y crítica, curadora independiente e investigadora)

Tours mensuales guiados por la curadora a la hora del almuerzo 

La curadora Dra. Ceci Moss guía un tour gratuito de la exhibición Lauren Lee McCarthy: Bodily Autonomy (Lauren Lee McCarthy: Autonomía corporal)

Jueves 7 de marzo, 2024, 12:30–1:30 pm

Jueves 4 de abril, 2024, 12:30–1:30 pm

Jueves 9 de mayo, 2024, 12:30–1:30pm


Gallery Tours

The Mandeville Art Gallery offers free 30 minute exhibition tours led by our Gallery Guides for both groups and individuals.

Gallery Guides are always available at our Welcome Desk to answer questions.

Book a Tour