Challenging stereotypes with fantasy
The incredible thing about dreams is that they allow fantasy and reality to combine in interesting ways. Take Sophie de Oliveira Barata’s dream. Its roots started in special effects for film. Sophie was fascinated by how you can use them to trick the eye. No doubt she could have gone on to do great things within the field. But this was just the beginning. A student job in the medical field changed everything. This collision of medical and special effects led her to where she is today: designing stunning prosthetics. Her work pushes boundaries, helping people who have lost a body part to express themselves and create positive conversations around a topic that is all too often taboo. Her inspiration? She tells us it may come from the wearer, the brief of a performance or the exhibition it’s intended for. But the result is always something exceptional.
Today, she's putting the finishing touches to a custom leg prosthesis for dancer Andrew Greggory. It's a part-limb, part-kinetic sculpture that moves hypnotically as Andrew dances. It's the kind of thing that wouldn't make sense anywhere but in Andrew's world. However, once in place and in motion, everything clicks. Another masterpiece. But it's not just a one-woman show, Sophie is quick to credit the team she worked with: Andrew for the inspiration, Chris Parsons who helps fit the limbs, and fellow sculptor Ivan Black who made the kinetic metal element. A true dream team.
My dream is to push the imagination to its limits and explore the human body in a way that it’s not genuinely explored.
Merging art and medicine in spectacular fashion
Never a believer that a lost body part must be ‘replaced’ with a prosthesis that matches it one-to-one, Sophie feels that the medical world lacks imagination. Her prostheses, by contrast, are true works of art. Fully customised and personalised. Each is functional, but also aesthetically striking and able to incorporate intriguing technologies adapted to the needs of their wearers. As Sophie merges the latest technology and traditional crafts, her work boldly explores many themes: body image, modification, evolution, transhumanism, and empowerment. She has worked with dancers, models, athletes, musicians and even video game companies.
Her work not only makes life easier for people; it does so in spectacular fashion. And ultimately, that has always been her greatest dream: bringing together art, medicine, and a human being to reimagine what the body could be. A unique collision of worlds and experiences that creates something wonderful. Explore more of her work at The Alternative Limb Project.