DRAFT WORK PROPOSAL craftACT 2013
This body of work extends on the themes dealt with in a previous work entitled "Escape Artist". Escape Artist took the personal experience of chronic illness and social isolation and placed it in the philosophical context of Absurdist Existentialism to convey a narrative of imprisonment, suffering and despair which transitions to one of freedom and exhilaration. It's main intention was to highlight the transcendent power of humanity that can be found within the meaningless suffering and affliction that we are predisposed to as mortal, flesh and blood beings.
BOX 1: SPECTACLE
This new body of work, tentatively titled "Hope Chest" extends on the themes in "Escape Artist" by introducing historical, social and political contexts to the already existing philosophical viewpoint of Absurdist existentialism.
The first box entitled "Hope Chest: Spectacle" continues with the assemblage work , again making use of principles of Ostranenie - a box that is object but also strongly suggestive of the human figure. The box ilke elements such as the shape, the doors and the cross inlaid will suggest a medicine chest/first aid box but it will also have suggestion of a torso with legs and a head type piece on top. Again the chest opens out to view the insides. Elements used will strongly suggest a time period placing the box in the specific historical context of the 19th century. Other elements will suggest the human figure but with deformity, such as the handles which are ornate brass mispositioned hands. Inside the two inner doors will be decoupaged, one with a blown up photo of a freak in typical Victorian style portrait. The other vintage medical diagram. Inside will be a scene of classic Victorian period portraiture - an ornate frame against a an ornate wallpapered background with the inside frame featuring textile work that is suggestive of organic material: flesh but here flesh of a clearly uncontrolled and aberrant nature. The lighting and electricity suggest life force/humanity. The 'head' of the 'body' is crown like suggesting the new aristocracy of the body
The point of this work is to place the disabled body in a particular time and place in history (the mid 1800 to the mid 1900s), thus calling up the identity and representations given to disabled peoples at this point in history and, identify in the process, the social anxieties at work in the population as a whole. That is the collective anxieties of a population that found their resolution through projection onto the aberrant body.
Specifically for this time frame meant creating freaks out of those whose body did not fit current ideas of normal - the popular rise of the travelling Freak Show in Victorian times. As to what defined the normal body and the freakish body and why the body should become the site of so much projected anxiety the answer can be found in the social and economic changes taking place at the time. Significantly the introduction of liberal democracy as the defining ethos and the concomitant dismantling of aristocracy and birthright as a means of status to then be replaced by meritocracy.
For the 19th Century citizen, iin the midst of economic and social upheaval density and status became a slippery commodity. Meritocracy suggested that one's status need be earned, that an individual could distinguish themselves through ability and their participation in the new democracy - in other words their future was a self determined one. Thus the disabled individual - the body that failed to determine itself within the norm - came to be seen as the embodiment of corporeal insufficiency and deviance - a repository for social anxieties about such troubling concerns as vulnerability, control, identity and status.
Themes needing to convey:
Straddling ideologies of traditional and modern.
Photographic iconography (the reproducible age as a precursor to mass culture):
Religion: Still a sense of mystery.
Aristocracy vs. meritocracy:
The threat the disabled/sick embody: how to represent? Nails?
BOX 2: SPECIMEN
The second box makes the transition from the Victorian era into the modern era. The development of Modern medicine and it's growing authority recast the Victorian Freak into a subject of pathology, no longer paraded in carnivals for the ritualistic processing of collective anxieties but instead hidden from view - no longer available to the public to both reassure and threaten but the property now of a medical establishment who transformed them into specimen. The reliance on science and rationality, that had began in the Enlightenment, became a means of predicting and regulating an intractable universe, imperative now to ease the anxiety of a population uncertain of it's ongoing insider status in the new democracy.The disabled were no longer freaks to marvel at but examples of medicine's failure to correct, control or master the aberrant body. But the disabled, deformed and sick body didn't just betray the promise of medicine - whose key role it could be argued was to restore it's subject to viable participation in liberal democracy - but betrayed the key tenets of liberal democracy itself. The body that could not be fixed, controlled or cured flew in the face of such concepts of self determination, self government, autonomy and progress almost mocking the liberal social experiment. For this - a conflict unresolvable within the liberal paradigm - the only solution was to invalidate the disabled population. Now not only did the disabled continue to suffer outsider status, the associated stigmatisation and embody the role of cultural 'other' - again the repository for the anxieties of those who fear they may too one day, through illness or accident, be rendered 'other' - but now the threat they posed to the ideology of the times - had them hid from view.
This box will be larger than the others and more modern, streamlined. There will be much use of clean sanitised materials such as white opaque perspex. The textiles/flesh will be orderly and strung accuse frames of stainless steel.. The inside doors decoupaged will be enlarged bloodwork analysis one side and on the other enlarged stock market printout. Both obscured by the size but still enough to know that the body has been ordered and the suggestion that it has been ordered in line with the socio-political economic environment.
How to suggest though the hidden fears/ 'sleeping terror' that inspires such control???? Nails???
Themes need to convey:
Abandonment of God:
The threat and betrayal of cultural values that the disabled /sick symbolise: ie For this they are punished,dehumanised and invalidated. What are we so afraid of? "The sleeping terror" we project onto the disabled?? Is it that they betray the 'fantasy of autonomy' that underlies our liberal democracy?????????
BOX 3: SUBVERSION