I’m happy to say that ‘Island Collaborations’ is being exhibited in the real world for the first time next month – beginning with a week at Chelsea Old Town Hall (outside the library) 26 September – 2 October 2016. <event details here>
The excellent MK Palomar interviewed me before writing some text for the exhibition and she got me thinking again about the ‘island’ part of the project title and this map started to come together on the paper – the Foulis Ward archipelago made up of participants with the seas between named after some of the most infectious bacteria carried by some CF patients.
To get participants started I gave some suggestions of photos they might take of their surroundings. One of these was the view towards their feet/shoes. I made these four paintings (acrylic on paper) based on those photos. I found the images quite touching and they reminded me of how you inevitably focus on your own body while staying in the room and how the same repeated views can sometimes feel relentless. But there was humour too in Debbie (top left) sending a photo of her newly-painted blue toenails…
“we’ve two horses in the field, in the morning you hear them snorting and walking through the grass and you hear the river..it’s just all these lovely gentle noises kind of wake you up…it comes with the sunlight” – Marcella
Patient Marcella was recorded by Karen from rb&hArts, talking in response to some questions I sent her about the different sounds she hears in hospital and at home.
Marcella has a beautiful Irish accent and spoke with such insight about the two environments – sometimes she would come out with an unusual phrase, the first of which (“it comes with the sunlight”) I’ve picked out in wire – she describes the different way that sound wakes her at home and in hospital. I loved the way the wire feels like someone else’s handwriting and how when moved around it creates a fleeting shadow presence – like her memory of waking somewhere else, or her transitory stay on the ward.
In the project more generally I’ve had the chance to experiment with text as art- a suitably ‘long form’ medium for a project that touches on physical distance.
Watch the video here
Lately I’ve been focusing on making individual drawings from the photos sent to me by the participants – I’ve noticed the repeated contrast between the medical and non-medical. This picture ‘Monster munch & running’ has the personal magazines and snacks of patient Tom – but there are subtle markers that a fellow patient would recognise: the branded paper tea cups that get offered throughout the day, and the tiles that give away the fact that when the ward (in a building over a hundred years old) was split into single rooms, certain anomalies remained in the internal features.
It also struck me that a magazine about running was a sort of escapism. While patients are encouraged to use exercise equipment in their rooms, covering of physical distance is impossible while staying inside the room.
Throughout this project I’ve been making animations – using the photographs that patients send me to make drawings and then making those drawings into animations. But I’ve also been making stand alone drawings, little chapters of life in a single room on Foulis. They often remind me of still life painting – this is one from a picture Lauren sent me – the stacks of extra food are a theme that pops up again and again in patients’ photos. Here I’ve drawn Lauren’s stack of extra food in biro – but it could almost be like a 17th Century collection of precious foods you see in old paintings. The oranges are still there but instead of lobster there’s Pringles…
Claire sent me pictures of the doll’s house she made and put in her window during her stay on the ward. I imagined it as a parallel for the individual rooms patients inhabit with no face to face contact with their neighbours due to the cross-infection rules that mean they communicate only by virtual means – here that’s by a message read in a book, a letter in a bottle and a message on a paper aeroplane.
The doll’s house aspect reflects the way each room becomes a small world in itself, with the sea a metaphor for distance between. At the end the inhabitant flying away is both a daydream of escape and the feeling of joy when you know that you’re going home.
Watch the video here
‘Buzzers and Buzzards’ is the first animation I’ve made with sound – it started with a recording of patient Katie talking to Singing for Breathing’s Phoene Cave.
Check out the brilliant Singing for Breathing program at The Royal Brompton (and info for interested patients) here.
Katie described the different soundscapes of the hospital and her own home. She emphasised the artificial sounds of the hospital and the contrast with the incidental ‘natural’ sounds of the birds outside the window.
Thinking about home is common when you spend so long in a hospital room – the meaning of ‘Island’ in the ‘Island Collaborations’ project title reflects the seeming distance between the room and home, as well as the isolation from other CF patients because of cross infection risk. But the ‘Collaborations’ reflects the links that patients can create in spite of this.