Surrogate: Performance In Progress

Lauren Lee McCarthy
Presented in partnership with School of Design & Creative Technologies at UT + Museum of Human Achievement

The Surrogate project began with offering myself in a 40 week performance where I’d serve as a gestational surrogate for a parent who would have an app to monitor and control me 24/7. What I eat, what I do, what thoughts I meditate on, and more. The parent would have complete control over the body in which their baby is growing. What began as a speculative proposal became real when a close friend communicated her desire to enact this with me.

We followed our desire to perform this remote-control surrogacy as far as possible through an intense process working with doctors, psychologists, fertility specialists, surrogates, doulas, midwives, and geneticists. It involved designing the Surrogate app, searching sperm donor databases, completing psychological evaluations and health exams, freezing embryos, talking with family, and ongoing correspondence with each other. Upon reaching the difficult moment where the surrogacy was shut down by the medical-industrial complex, I expanded the work into a series of short films, performances, and installations that tell the story of what happened.

This deeply personal work offers my body as physical, emotional, and conceptual surrogate for understanding reproduction and technology’s role in it. The act of becoming a remote control surrogate serves as a metaphor for the control we may soon hold through processes of genetic engineering, as well as the immediate infringement on our bodily autonomy enacted by the legislation of reproductive rights worldwide.


Collaborator, Dorothy R. Santos Cinematography, Gabriel Noguez Intended Parents Film, Director, David Leonard Surrogate App, Design, Stefanie Tam Prosthetics, Design and Fabrication, Paul Esposito Placenta, Design and Fabrication, Eunice Choi

A Creative Capital project, supported by Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, and a Pioneer Works Tech Residency.

Surrogate: Performance In Progress

The Museum of Human Achievement Wheelchair Accessible
916 Springdale Rd Austin, TX 78702

Free admission, ticket reservation required.

Performance 6:00-7:30pm.
Followed by a Q&A and refreshments: 7:30-8:30pm.

Limited seating available, some spots will be standing room only.

  • April 13, 2023 6:00 pm