“Illness somehow defines us. It tells us who we are. It informs us, in a sense Nietzsche understood in his bones, that we are creatures marked by a uniquely unstable relation to health. Unlike robots or rabbits, humans possess a tendency toward repeated and often protracted illnesses that seem finally less a flaw in our design than a mysterious signature. Walk through any suburban mall, however, and you cannot avoid seductive displays promising miracle cures, ageless bodies, and perpetual well being, as if our main task in life were to defeat mortality. The search for perfect health and vigor is an ancient impulse. Ponce de Leon pursued tales of a youth-restoring fountain all the way into the swamps of sixteenth-century Florida.”
-David B. Morris
We are not only defined by our illnesses, we are othered by them.
Illness and pain are subjective, and cannot be shared across bodies. Because words are inherently metaphorical, verbal language plays an important role in the misconceptions of communicating pain. The body as subject becomes challenged, and when one deals with internal illness there is a loss of a sense of self.
Notions of illness change with time, geographical location, and culture. These perceptions are influenced and determined not only by cultural ideals, but also by a society’s medical system and the disease categories that physicians and medical insurers are willing to acknowledge. These changing notions of illness add to an impossibility to effectively communicate physical pain.
Human beings are organic matter; our bodies deteriorate and decay making pain and illness an inevitable part of the corporeal experience. Our relationship to medicine seems to be rooted in emotions of desperation and curiosity, perhaps due in part to fear of death, loss, and the unknown in American culture. Our current relationship to health and wellness and our flirtations with immortality are a direct result of this fear.
Through my work, I romanticize our relationship to medicine, our vulnerability, and our fear by comparing contemporary western medicine with home remedies and medicinal rituals from other cultures. I am interested in the legitimization and acceptance of invasive procedures that include hardware, saws, hammers, lasers, and radiation, while procedures that entail the use of crystals, flowers, or feathers as the main tools in the healing process are considered bizarre and sometimes mythical, ultimately rendering them uninsurable.
One of my goals in this work is to blur the lines between ailment and remedy, as well as the lines between different medicinal practices and the verbal language used to describe them. The objects I make strive to acknowledge and communicate this othering and desperation through a visual language, when verbalization falls short.