A life story backwards: Merrily We Roll Along Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along is the winner of this year’s London’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards for Best Musical. It is a musical I have known and loved for over 30 years. Based on a 1934 play by Kauffman and Hart with the same name, it…
A copy of this celebrated painting has been recently given to us by dear friends after a visit to the Pre-Rapehlite Exhibition. I spotted this gem in the last gallery of the exhibition – and recalled it from the cover of Umberto Eco’s The Infinity of Lists (currently one of my favourite books). It hints at my key themes of multiplicities, pluralities and the infinite. We had just been to see the musical Top Hat, and I was in a mood for the Ziegfield Follies or the Busby Berkeley Girls (and Boys!) which this nineteenth century image must have been well on the way to inspiring.
Humanistic Art: Work by Ford Maddox Brown This astute and telling painting is featured in my text book on page 494-5. It can be found displayed routinely in Manchester City Galleries but right now and for three months, it is being displayed at the Tate, Britain in London as part of their…
In the Winter of 2010, I was approached by a photographer who was making a study of ‘Hidden Lives’. She was taking images of people who had confronted some kind of ‘body problem’. As I recall the three main groups were transplant patients, insomniacs, and women who had not been able to have children.
She came to my home and interveiwed me for a number of hours about my eperiences. She then went away and pondered what I had said; and came back to me with a number fo suggestions for a photography session….
Her work has now been presented at a number of exhibitions, in a limited edition book (Sleeplesee, No Ma, Trans) and on her web site. You may like to look at it in more detail via:
Not unusually I suspect, this is not an image that I see of myself! It is a fine image but I don’t like it! I look so much more confident than I usually feel.
Trans is a photographic portrait project about people who have had an organ transplant and how this experience becomes woven into their personal and biographical narratives. The possibility of living thanks to another person’s organ somehow transgresses the Western essentialist view of individuality and subjectivity – the notion of a unified, self-contained body. As such, Trans aims to look at how organ transplantation can affect people’s sense of self-identity.
Individuals have experienced taste, personality or behavioral changes after an organ transplant, which they sometimes relate to the traits of their donor. Recent biomedical research in the USA suggests that the brain does not have an exclusive role in ‘data processing’ and that it may be possible for a transplanted organ to connect a recipient with the donor’s memories. Despite such research, the theory of cellular memory has not been scientifically proven and changes to donor recipients are currently explained as a result of improving health, medication or psychological shock.
There is no question that an organ transplant is a life-changing experience, full of emotional, embodied and social complexities. Often these translate into certain fears and desires regarding, for example, the acceptance or rejection of the organ; the integrity of one’s identity; mixed feelings towards the donor’s family, such as gratitude, guilt, health responsibility or debt; the variable levels of anonymity between donor families and recipients and; an urge to make sense of what may be perceived as a second chance at life.
The photographs and texts that make up Trans were created using a combination of interview and portraiture. Participants were interviewed first in order to evoke their experience of transplantation as well as to agree to the location, setting and approach for the portraits. During the photographic sessions, the focus was placed on the affective and emotional aspects that had emerged in conversation.
I would like to thank the participants of this project for their collaboration and trust.
However, if you wish to become and organ donor, the most effective way is to tell your relatives.
About the trilogy
Trans is the third part of a trilogy that aims to question what it is to be human by exploring issues of subjectivity in relation to health and disease; the imaginary around the body and its control; and ‘lack’ as a corporeal condition. The first project of this trilogy, Sleepless, looks at people who sleep very little. The second project, No Ma, is about women who are not mothers and are certain they will never be. One of the key themes of the trilogy is to visually explore aspects of the human condition that are not visible.
The motivation behind this trilogy is to address vital experiences that somehow transgress the notion of a ‘normal’ human subject (established and defined by social norms through scientific/cultural discourse) in order to challenge conventional understandings of the human subject.
The work of the sociologist –photographer Cathy Greenblat has aimed to show the ‘active’ nature of Alzheimer’s across the world; and how ‘good care’ can be crucial in creating situations to enable a better life for people with Alzheimer’s. As she remarks: As a social scientist, I know how much expectations influence achievement, and I…
I am sure lives can get shaped through imageries as much as words. For some – the artists, the film makers, the photographers- this may be the key to their lives. But most people live with imageries in their life. How we see our world has consequences.
I hope and plan to show a few of my favourite imageries on this site from time to time. And here is another long term favourite: it is Cyborg by Lynn Randolph.
It is an image that I have lived with for 20 years and used a lot in my work. It has been much discussed in gender courses as it was used and discussed by Donna Haraway in her work The Cyborg Manifesto (1985). It captures a mood and tone from a period of my life – a postmodern moment. It captures the work of a new friend- Lynn Randolph who I first met in 1987. But above all for me it captures, condenses and confuses, in a deeply ironic fashion, our ‘humanity’: our location as unique human beings in a world of machines, and stars, and animals: the universalities of connections in our unique moments.