This morning I spent observing in the x-ray department, looking at intestines after the patients has swallow barium to highlight the lining of the gut. That barium tastes disgusting, like milk of magnesia, I tried it. Filming is quite a physical process, as the radiographer needs to follow the barium after it is swallowed, negotiating the ins and outs of the gut by moving the machine around but also getting the patient to move around too, their movements pushing the barium into different areas. I think everyone in the room – radiographer, patient, student, artist – saw something different in the images produced. Someone saw the face of a veiled women in this one.
Now completing the molecular models for the Clay10 project. What has surprised me working with such a supposedly rigid modelling system is just how flexible it becomes as it grows, how its own internal tensions produce twists and bends. Then, once suspended and slowly rotating, this wafer-shaped structure (of illite, above) can sometimes take on the appearance of a sphere. Visually the models are quite camelion-like, shifting as your mind tries to make sense of what it is looking at. I need to explore this more through filming them. I think they could take on another form through the lens.
A quote from David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous and a picture of birdsong from my project Birds of the Antarctic: “Caught in a mass of abstractions, our attention hypnotized by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect us back to ourselves… Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds and shapes of an animate earth…our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices…is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence.”
It is such a challenging time within the hospital. The current round of budget cuts combined with the new framework for the NHS that is in pipeline makes Derriford Hospital a forbidding place in which to work. But then this came up: Derriford Hospital is working on its sustainability policy. How does a hospital of this size even start to become sustainable. Surely the priorities are medical not environmental? But then if you go back to the foundations of modern medicine, to Hippocrates (whose name persists in, amongst other things, the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath) and his text entitled Airs, Waters and Places you are met with this opening sentance: “Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly should proceed thus: in the first place consider the seasons of the year…then the winds…then…the qualities of the waters…” Jump forward to now and you have the NHS, that is the Natural Health Service, part of the NHS’s website dedicated to sustainability. And so the circle turns. Maybe I am looking in the wrong direction at the moment; maybe it is outwards that I should be looking, focussing on the hospital in its environment.
‘Birds that feed on fish; their excrement will form the beginning of an oasis in which human beings can live, until the next stream of lava smothers it all.’ Manfred Eicher in Iceland. We have the artist Ilana Halperin coming to Mezz soon, and all her work in Iceland. Looking forward to it.
We are showing films by Phillip Warnell this evening at Mezz (www.mezz.info). He works with medical imagery and links this to the outside world. A man after my own heart!
I am giving a talk at Plymouth University tomorrow, entitled ‘Looking through others’ eyes’. Thinking about the breast screening unit at Derriford, and how the consultant there sees so much into the scans that to me look more like the surface of the moon than something anatomical. I want to work more with this gap between the two visions.