Reflective Research Journal – 3rd Year – Week Sixteen

I worked on video mostly, but continued to sew little body part objects and sketch ideas to try out with silk paints and did a little watercolour work. Had a tutorial with Kate last week, forgot to say in week 14 or 15…I have lost track of the weeks… I sent her a link to a version of the compost toilet vid I finished at the start of the week. She said it was very dense and layered and that it made her feel uncomfortable to start with; the brief appearance of shit, and the comedy noises, but then when the camera moves out the studio and we see it’s a rural landscape it changes to a hand pouring the bottle of pee in the earth, it made her question why she was uncomfortable, when we all do it and that there was a beauty to pouring the pee in the earth/snow and I could maybe make more of that. I took a lot of video footage in the snow after that, not all involving pee! I also finished the beetle video for the performance the camera workshop part 2 last week and showed it on Friday. It was only a minute and I used minimal words with mounting emotion like Bruce Nauman in his Good Boy Bad Boy film. And included a giant boot (a bit monty python – esk) made with an improvised green screen to show the resilient domestic prisoner, aka the beetle being kicked onto its back repeatedly, only to get up and carry on. Someone said it reminded them of Kafka. 

This week I showed the toilet film in to Erica in our tutorial and she said maybe the green character didn’t have to be there all the way through and the toilet was really interesting in itself. I volunteered that you couldn’t really follow what was going on because of all the layers and that I was getting a bit fed up of the dense, almost music video style I have been using up until now and that I might try something more minimal.

I tried a more minimal film – with simple beautiful footage of the winter landscape, me peeing in a porcelain chamber pot (the one I use at night), then pouring pee it in the snow and then cleaning the chamber pot. I added recordings of me reading bits out of various sociology on health books and articles. I filled the whole video with the back to back sound and realised straight away that it doesn’t work. It’s too dense and the too distract from each other or cancel the other out. It seems too simple to just have the footage with the natural sounds, but I might try something like this.

(I now have, using more minimal spoken word and singing – more like the beetle film – and it works much better.)

I have since taken lots more footage of the different compost toilets. To try integrating them. Though this would all be aiming towards a longer video…or I would have a lot to cram in…so it may become a separate or brand new version.

Have ended up doing lots more research stemming from last weeks research, focused on health. I need to think about starting to write my dissertation report, but I keep straying back into more generalised health, or the history of infectious diseases and vaccination and the current research on gut health in particular and I am wondering if I should try harder to find a way to fit this into an art context, because it seems more pertinent, relevant, topical etc than the child birth area. Just started rereading Health – Documents of Contemporary Art again and on reading about Simone Leigh and her Free Peoples Medical Clinic and The Waiting Room, and now wonder whether this might be more possible than I had originally thought.  

Started watching Luke Fowlers All Divided Selves, (which is also mentioned in the book I just named above), because Erica said it reminded her a little of my Coldhome Film. I liked the style and devices he used, and a succession of still rural video scenes from mist over water to a beetle struggling in a puddle, with a song or voice tying them together, is something I would like to try. 

The CAP artists talk this week was Rehana Zaman, who’s video work I found very interesting. Some computer generation of a female figure who was made of the same material as her rural landscape, I love this idea, though am less enamoured with the high tech realisation of it. I liked her documentary style video making too and the technique of interviewing people in the partially-distracted setting of a kitchen or a car. 

Delving into some of the sources behind The Sociology of Health by Nicky Hart, which I wrote about last week, I find Thomas McKeown, (1912-88) a British Physician, epidemiologist and historian of medicine. His main question was ‘Why have populations increased’, but his subtext was ‘Has medicine mattered’ (a radical question in the 1960’s and I feel possibly even more so now). I have read lots of articles about him and though some of his findings have been it seems, discredited, as in his interpretation of the drop in the mortality rate at the beginning of the 20th century, I can’t find anything completely negative about him and even articles like this (link below) in the Lancet, conclude not too damningly that even though “he did not always provide the right answers”…“His great virtue was to ask the right questions.” (Another point here is how statistics can be interpreted very differently depending on your agenda.)

‘Discrediting’ people who can one minute be experts in their field, then who dare to question the mainstream narrative of the time and are the next minute ‘cancelled’, is not new. For example the case of Ignaz Semmelweis who worked out the cause of childbed fever which was killing 32% of woman giving birth in hospital in the 1840’s. In the hospital where he worked in Vienna, in the Doctors clinic, far more woman would die in childbirth than in the midwives clinic and Semmelweis worked out it must be to do with the doctors lack of hygiene between handling corpses and birthing woman. He was right and reduced the death rate in the doctors clinics substantially by instituting a policy of hand washing with chlorinated lime between the autopsy room and the maternity ward, but despite his success in three hospitals “he was ridiculed and ignored by his contemporaries” and eventually tortured and killed. Woman continued to die of childbed fever for decades until Louis Pasteur came along with his germ theory twenty years later which was later proved my Robert Koch in 1884 and was the scientific explanation for Semmelweis’s findings. (Collen, 2015) 

This may sound like it’s contradicting my last post about being too clean, but the point is that most of the woman giving birth in the hospital didn’t need to be and would have been saver being delivered by a midwife at home. In fact it was known among the labouring woman queuing outside the hospital, that if they gave birth in the street they’d stand a better chance of surviving and many did just that. It was witnessing these street births that Semmelweis realised there was something very wrong. (Collen, 2015)

Collen, A. (2015) 10% Human – How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness. London, William Collins.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673608602925/fulltext

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/causesofdeathover100years/2017-09-18

McKeown and the Idea That Social Conditions Are Fundamental Causes of Disease 2002

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447154/#!po=2.00000

Why McKeowns ideas are so enduring despite being discredited – 2002

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447153/

Sociology: Themes & Perspectives 2016 mentions Nicky Hart. 

2000  

 Health, medicine and society

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jun/29/simone-leigh-waiting-room-esmin-elizabeth-green-new-museum

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