Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Subject of Examination



I don't know very much about the work of Japanese artist Chihau Shiota but what I have seen is both intriguing and disturbing in equal degrees. The work is by no means focused exclusively on medical themes but the two works shown here have obvious resonance. The performance piece During Sleep (2002) placed a number of hospital beds in a room and filled the space with wool, strung in the air across the space. Shiota and a number of others initially occupied the beds, silent and motionless. It has clear visual links with the environment constructed by Marcel Duchamp in the 1942 Surrealist show in New York.


The second piece here, Ein Ort (2001), reminds me of two things. Firstly, Cornelia Parker's Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) - an exploded shed also starkly lit. At the risk of becoming too confessional, the second connection I would like to make is much more personal and perhaps more pertinent in the context of this blog. The harsh, intrusive lighting and the hospital bed restore a difficult memory - my own experience of hospitalisation when my daughter was born. Pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome made for a difficult time for us both. As the subject of examination and observation I was helpless and totally dependent.

1 comment:

Giskin said...

Wow, Beth, these images are really unsettling. My pregnancies were not as fraught with complications as yours, but I also found childbirth to be hugely disempowering. In a way, I think it is because we are encouraged to come up with 'birth plans' which suggest that one has some kind of control over the options. In reality, it just isn't so. I've yet to meet a mother who had the birth management she specified in her birth plan.