Every human body is marked by cultural norms and social practices external to them. What varies is the extent to which technology is embedded in these systems — and the ways in which bodies and selves are subject to class and other inequalities. Denervation is set in a society that believes that beauty cannot exist without youth. An “affective capital” arises, attaching to and amplifying existing social hierarchies when an exclusive med-spa thrives in an industry town from which its primary beauty product, Botox, is sourced. Working in a regulatory blind spot and driven by high demand, counterfeiters produce an unauthorized surfeit of the product. The resulting proliferation has made its deadly source, Botulinum toxin A, easily available, causing a series of airborne botulism outbreaks. Using the town’s plaza space to play out the repercussions, Denervation dramatizes the impact of this unsecured supply chain, giving us a glimpse of the lives of the town’s residents. It aims to demonstrate how the most valuable commodity isn’t the counterfeit product or the final end-user, but an oft-overlooked one: the air we breathe, the very basis of our survival.
Joshua Ashish Dawson is an Indian-born, award-winning filmmaker & designer based in Los Angeles. He received a Master’s in Advanced Architectural Studies from the University of Southern California, where he was the recipient of the S. Kenneth Johnson Memorial Scholarship and a Gesundheit traveling fellow. He trained under Pritzker Prize-winning architect Balkrishna Doshi as well as Hollywood production designer Alex McDowell, founder of the World Building Institute at USC. This combination has led him to explore world-building and storytelling as a speculative fiction tool for architecture, re-imagining the built environment through interdisciplinary design thinking and cinema. Joshua has been featured in both mainstream and architectural media, including Vice Motherboard, Close-Up Culture, Director’s Notes, and Domus Italy. His work has been screened at renowned film festivals across the globe. Joshua was the recipient of the 2019 Jury Prize at the Academy Award-qualifying Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose.