I have been digesting advice about setting up scenarios where people could do gestures (via an art installation) that mimic the acts I go through as I accumulate my materials. In theory it seemed interesting, but the mere gesture of sticking a tube or syringe-tip into a hole, belittles these acts of care-taking and love. The idea of setting up these sorts of simulations may seem profound, but the motions separated from the original intentions fall short of anything authentic. Performing these life-sustaining acts on anything short of a live person and expecting participants, who are merely going through the motions, to gain discerning insight is absurd.
For this reason, transforming the medical materials is far more valuable for me than attempting to re-use them in a different context, but similar to how they were meant to be used. The latter minimizes the depth of involvement that accompanies the "real' gesture. While the former, at least, reaches for something poetic.
Above: "10mm in Red" and "10mm in Blue." Hand painted suction catheters, PVC panel and Graphite, 2017.
Photo Above taken by Chelsea Boxwell. "Bull,Bully,Bullets,Bullshit" Hand painted medicinal bullets in a Smith and Wesson gun case.
It was my first time presenting at the Artblitz Crit Group last night in LA. The timing was excellent to get a read from people who haven't seen my new work in progress.
I was really surprised that my ritual of hand painting medicinal bullets and catheters did not come across as such. Instead, it was assumed that these things came that way, that they were purchased with red caps and colored tips and that they had not not already been used for their original purposes. (OK, those who are among my invisible culture, who were not part of this group, knew immediately that I had altered the things because, like me, they are familiar.) But my goal is to reach outside my own circle and despite my compulsiveness to prep and hand paint each item, no past-purpose was revealed to those who are not familiar. Instead it was erased.
Since I am working with medical supplies that have bodily functions, the question of repulsion came up. "What's wrong with repulsion?" someone asked. A: "Doesn't repulsion turn people away? I want to attract, not repulse." Hmmm...Transforming these objects is meant to speak of the positive sort of transformation that happens when a person is changed by another. Not repulsed.
RITUAL is another take-away I got from last nights ArtblitzLA discussion. There is much ritual behind the objects; The first is in the original usage of the objects; The second is in their preparations for re-use and; The third involves the process for their new configurations where they work (interact?) with other materials.
Someone said, If I use the object for what it is in a different context, it becomes a simile (relating back to its original purpose.) On the other hand, If I use it in a different way it is transformed (In my case- to a formalistic object.) A simile will equal metaphor, poetry and gesture. As I consider this even more today I see no reason why the transformed path (even in formal presentation) couldn't also equal metaphor, poetry and gesture.
I walked away with much to digest after this critique and gained a new awareness that I would not have if not for this discussion.
I Could Be A Brain Surgeon
I'm sweating. Yes, it's hot. Even now after midnight, it's hot and I am not made for desert heat. I'm also not made for the medical arena, but here I am in the middle of both- the desert AND Julius' medical care. I'm light headed and don't breathe well with either environment. My boy is now a young adult and "graduated" from his pediatric trach to an adult trach tonight. When I opened the sterile package with the new trach I felt dizzy. "THAT'S gotta go into my son's neck!" Thankfully, I did not say this out loud. Jules watches intensely during these times. He's so vulnerable and knows it. Caught by surprise, I did say, "Wow, it's big!" (Stay on track here. We are talking medicine not......and size does matter in this case.) Oooops, Julius became anxious and I realized I should not have said that out loud so I attempted to down play my fear for the noticeably larger tube that was about to go into his neck and I said stuff like, "You are a young man now," and "It should make you more comfortable with your breathing," and "it's softer than the Shiley so it should feel better once you get used to it." I was clearly trying to make myself feel better about it as well. As usual, he was onto me and my squeamishness. He knows I was never cut out for this. We both got our bearings.
It occurred to me recently, that if I weren't so light-headed when it comes to bodily cuts, needles, blood and such I would be an amazing brain surgeon. Uh huh. At least with the brain, there would be little blood to manage, right? Seriously tho, besides being fascinated with neurology, I have excellent steadiness, asymmetry balance and can use both my hands together or apart as necessary. (Right hand pulls out old trach, Left hand slips new trach into position. Right hand is non-sterile. Left hand is sterile. Right hand manages trach ties. Left hand removes opterator.) This is why the foreman at General Motors made me a floater on the assembly lines when I was fresh out of high school. I could do all the jobs without shutting the line down.
Back to the point- we've had our share of nurses who cannot manipulate both hands together or individually very well. Sometimes, you must use only one hand if the other hand has another job. Sometimes, you must use your non-dominant hand to do fine motor skill. From my experience, men more often have a difficult time with this than women. Sorry, but it's just plain true. Every male nurse we've had simply lacked fine motor skill with their non-dominant hands. And every male nurse we've had could only do one thing at a time. (Bite my tongue.) Julius often requires both trach suction and oral suction together- It's dreadful to watch someone who cannot manage these overlapping tasks. So there I am, demonstrating, yet again, how to manage both without wasting the catheter or cross contaminating the suction tips. I'm not as patient as I was once. NOPE. I was definitely not cut out for the medical field, but when you love someone- REALLY love someone- you do what it takes. You stretch your awareness and ability. You bite your tongue when necessary. And you know, without hesitation, that that person would do the same for you because honest love is cyclical. Anybody who is fortunate enough to get this level of the L word, in whatever form it takes, understands that it's not so far-fetched to feel like you could be a brain surgeon......or an important artist.......
It's calm now and I'm alone and I like it. There is a breeze coming through the house. Both kids are asleep. A few more suction catheters to paint in the studio before I go to bed. 10mm to the tip. Hang them to dry. The medical is art and that is how it settles best for me, whether or not anyone ever sees this as important.