The Patient is Performing as Unexpected
This practice led research asks how both the experience of serious illness and the medical institution affect the long-term hospital patient, and in what way an art practice can help redefine the post-hospital, post-transplant artist.
The project draws on my work as an art psychotherapist in an adult mental health secure unit, as well as my own experience of being a patient in hospital isolation for the treatment of Leukaemia. I am interested, from the perspective of an artist, in how identity and ideas of self are disrupted by illness and medical intervention. My main focus is on the phenomenon of allogeneic transplantation, the procedure that I underwent as part of my treatment. This involves transplanting genetically different cellular material, from the same species, from a healthy donor to the recipient patient. The result of this, in medical terms, is called a Chimera (also the name for the Greek, three-headed mythical creature).
In my studio practice I explore the concept of the Chimera through the relationship of similar but different methods and materials: still and moving image and print, film, performance and fictional writing. As part of this experimentation I have developed what I have termed ‘Transplant Selves’: selves that are formed from an imagined reconfiguration of my new donor cells and DNA. These hybrid selves are contextualised in relation to psychoanalysis as well as poststructuralist ideas of multiplicities and performativity. I reference post-feminist and posthumanist texts, and fictional novels, including science fiction and populist writing. I draw on queer theory, self-storytelling and health activism.
The research project outlines major shifts in both my academic thinking and my art practice. In questioning the limiting concepts of patient identity prescribed by the contemporary medical institution, I offer visual and textual ideas on how the artist-patient might perform differently, and in unexpected ways.