Event Date: 26 September 2015
Barts Pathology Museum
Robin Brook Centre
London EC1A 7BE
“DYING WELL”: ENACTING MEDICAL ETHICS
A cross-disciplinary Symposium at Barts Pathology Museum
Professor Tom Corby (Professor of Visual and Interdisciplinary Art, University of Westminster) – Blood and Bones
Blood and Bones is an on-going artwork that responds to a personal experience of incurable cancer.
Bodies in pain undergoing change and bodies that malfunction produce huge amounts of medical data, which connect to other medical, financial, biological and affective systems. In part following Sontag’s call ‘against metaphor’ this project seeks to map these flows as a means to develop alternative ways of representing illness beyond normative narrative tropes, e.g. metaphors of struggle, achieved wisdom from trauma, etc.
Specific methods of data tracking were developed that measured, documented and made public a series of indices of my experience while undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma in 2012–13. These included my daily ‘official’ medical tests (bloods and other bio-markers) and other informal or ‘personal data’ including: pain; details of psychological response; a sartorial tracker that captured a daily change of headwear in response to chemotherapy side-effects; a running total of drugs consumed, and the financial cost of my treatment obtained from public databases. These indexes were published on a website that I maintained during treatment and subsequently output in a number of forms: simple visual graphs, grids of photographic images, texts of data tables, and installations using medical equipment expressing the data in physical forms for exhibition.
The deliberatively terse visual and informational grammar developed challenged the aestheticizing tropes common to the representation of illness. The combined data produced during the project describe the complex arrangements of economics, biology, affect and matter that the body in pain is subject to and entangled with, seeking to contribute a distinctive ‘data documentary’ to the narration of trauma in contemporary arts practices.