Reflective Research Journal – 3rd Year – Week Twelve

Playing about with collage using video footage from last semester and working over it digitally, to get me started on ideas.
sketchbook brainstorming. Still on health, technocratic/nature and mind/body dualities.
Fragmented body parts, becoming plant.

Last week – It’s thoroughly depressed hearing we won’t get back into the studios or workshops till the end of February and from the way things are looking possibly at all this semester. As well as missing the input of and discussion with my contemporaries in the studios and the studio space itself, I had hoped to do some ceramics and printmaking this semester too. Such a loss of the precious little time we have at art school and a big downer on our creative spirits. The government seems to be putting the arts at the bottom of the pile again and I only hope I can find a little bit of the spirit of rebellion to energise me.

By the start of term, the 18th January, I was feeling more positive and ideas had started to flow and I was making use of what materials I had around me to start making characters to make into a sort of puppet show. I had also tried out a couple of video experiments, using yet unused green screen footage from last term of me doing naked yoga and placed me in different settings of found footage and photos on my phone. One in a meadow of wild flowers, where I am shrunk to smaller than the plants, doing yoga among the bees and one with me saluting the red man stop sign at an urban level crossing and appearing in various other Dundee street scenes and royalty free footage of a night-time city-scape with motorway running through it. I am dancing around anomalously naked, ridiculously, like some blissed out naturist and doing slightly comic yogic positions on top of shops and on busy roads. I tried sampling bits of Shoshana Zuboffs talk on Surveillance capitalism (which I found on YouTube) and added that as the soundtrack. She talks about marching into the third decade of the digital century, still naked. 

The characters and objects I am making are from an old pillowcase and are painted with acrylic inks and then sewn and stuffed with plastic rubbish. They are mutated female forms, with extra or missing limbs and body parts and also fragmented pieces of bodies. 

I tried again to research artists working with bacteria or the microbiome. There are several who make art using bacteria and viruses, which I am less interested in I suppose, I found Anna Dumitriu: ‘Human faecal transplants and the bacteria that lives on our hands are the subjects of two groundbreaking new artworks by leading British bio-artist Anna Dumitriu, at the Eden Project‘s new permanent exhibition “Invisible You: The Human Microbiome”. The exhibition investigates the bacteria that live on and inside the human body.’

‘Anna Dumitriu’s work is at the forefront of art and science collaborative practice, with a strong interest in the ethical issues raised by emerging technologies and a focus on microbiology and healthcare. Her installations, interventions and performances use a range of biological, digital, and traditional media including live bacteria, robotics, interactive media, and textiles.’

It’s interesting, and exactly the area I am working in, but the work itself doesn’t excite me that much. It’s quite dry I suppose, I would prefer to use more humour.

Sketching ideas for the following video.
Video experiments incorporating the pillow case, plastic stuffed objects and separation compost toilet chair (see sketch above).

Watched ‘More than Stories’ by Any Lewin, on Vimeo prior to her talk for the CAP speakers program. I really enjoyed the films, from the way she recreated stories, mixing memories, collected material and fiction. I liked the way they were filmed in a set, but that the camera drew back and to the side so the workings of the set and the crew, cameras and lights were often visible. Also the way there was a dialogue between actors and director (Lewin herself). Very interesting historically too and the personal viewpoint, it being her family history.

I spent Thursday researching possible dissertation topics around health and patriarchal attitudes to the body and by lunch time had hit upon an idea I am very excited to write about and also to bring back into my practical work again; The medicalisation of birth and its portrayal in contemporary visual culture which has been a bugbear of mine for years. It also relates to health and good bacteria and fecal transplants etc… in that naturally vaginally birthed babies get the right sort of bacteria on their faces which in combination with the first breast milk, should set up their gut health and immunity against disease resistance for life.

The medicalisation, the surgical and pharmaceutical interventions of birth, can cause lifelong chronic and more serious disease in later life for both child and mother. Birth is such a huge fundamental part of life, we all came into being through birth and yet realistic portrayal of the power of the experience is rarely shown in contemporary culture, in fact it’s rarely, even experienced naturally by women who have made informed birthing choices and are in control. Instead, woman are shown, submissive and powerless, in sterile hospital environments, always on their back on a bed, (a piece of furniture for sleep, sex, sickness and dying) surrounded by often male medical professionals who know better, patronize, diminish, dismiss and control the helpless scared or angry woman.

It’s often depicted as comedy, where the prone woman lashes out and screams for drugs (she’d previously been under the naïve or stupid allusion that she could manage without) or it’s a medical emergency, where she is rushed off to surgery to be shown afterwards, tearfully grateful for the lives saved and pain free, being handed a baby behind a blue surgical screen by masked medical staff who have saved the day.  The patriarchal, bullying, coercion, control, male power play and domination over pregnant and birthing woman is something I have first-hand experience of and managed with only a massive effort of will to resist submission to by giving birth to both my children naturally at home, age 21 and 24. I was treated as a stupid, stubborn, naïve child, even though both my pregnancies were planned and I was well read on most aspects of natural and medicalised birth possibilities and procedures. 

Working title so far is – Medicalisation, sexualization, submission and control: To what extent do patriarchal attitudes to women’s bodies and health still dominate portrayal of childbirth in contemporary visual culture?

On Friday I continued working research on the portrayal of birth and found a few papers written on the subject, though nothing exactly like what I want to write, but I started wondering if I needed to take a slightly different approach, maybe bringing in the witch hunts…

On Friday night I started making a doll/puppet out of newspaper and masking tape. She is a pregnant woman, with a womb and a newborn newspaper baby which comes in and out. 

On Saturday I made a rough little stop motion of her giving birth against a green cloth and then used the ultra-key effect and put one of my paintings of weeds in place. A bit of a cliched ‘nature birth’, but I will try different ideas. 

Today, Sunday, I have started painting her. I don’t think I want to work solely on birth this semester, but it can maybe be the subject of one of the video shorts.  

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