Welcome new readers, and thanks to Sussex Uni Digital Humanities Lab for bigging me up on Twitter! For the next three months, I will be developing my ongoing project ‘GUTS’, which focuses on creating work that explores experiences of living with a long-term chronic health condition, Ulcerative Colitis.
My residency began officially on Friday, and my aim is to write about my process each week here. Through the Lab, I hope to approach the subject of chronic health in more community-minded and digital-based ways.
I should add here that this blog is likely to include ‘abject’ themes relating to internal organs at times, as well as nudity. So, NSFW, as they say.
I find this stage of any project is always the most overwhelming- when the directions your ideas could take reach out in all directions, and you’re in a new space, surrounded by people doing new, exciting things. So my first stop is conversations, note-taking, listening, looking and feeling.
I’m also putting together survey questions at the moment, to gather data responses regarding different experiences of chronic health conditions. I’ll share that around once I have the go-ahead from the ethics side of things…
This project ‘GUTS’ began with me looking for ways to visualise the experience of living with a chronic health condition that affects the large intestine, and all the discomfort, pain and frustration that experience can bring. One of the ways I first began to think about how to visualise this was through being literally ‘tied’ to a toilet. And how utterly tiring this can be when it becomes a daily worry.
Below is an earlier piece, ‘7 metre tether’ (based on the Google-able ‘fact’ that the human intestinal tract is reportedly 7 metres long).
Anyone with any kind of bowel-related condition can likely understand the very real fear of not wanting to stray too far from a bathroom at any time. Trying to visualise this feeling is difficult, so I’ve gone from the most obvious way as a starting point.
I began experimenting with incorporating physical performance into this, when I managed to get hold of a nice pink toilet.
Over the weekend, I was able to attend a Butoh workshop led by Mim King (my second workshop with Mim, who is a brilliant teacher. Her classes are mega accessible and she creates a genuinely safe and comforting environment to experiment within, whatever your background) and this class was a good starting point.
Butoh is a slow and meaningful form of dance that asks us to slow down, feel the weight of our bodies and visualise movement. All Butoh practitioners have a different approach: Mim’s focus is nature, and transforming the energy of the space around us.
As an experienced life model for over 10 years now, I am all too aware of the strength there is in stillness and slow movement. I spent Sunday in the studio experimenting with this heavy object which carries a lot of meaning for most people, (but especially those like me!).
By tying myself to the basin, I tried different ways to pull and drag away- first trying to escape, and then simply dragging the toilet behind me.
I chose to experiment simply at first, with no clothes. As a life model, this is something I’m used to doing, however with performance, the choice to be clothed or unclothed carries a lot more weight. As a female-shaped person, my body when viewed is often automatically sexualised without my consent, meaning that a performance like this would become about my naked body, rather than what it is doing.However, wearing some kind of ‘costume’ might also distract from the content, unless carefully planned.
Whilst I think over this, and reach out to some new contacts, I’m going to start looking into the potential for using sound as part of this project- something I’ve not really utilised before in my practice.
This weeks’ reading + links: