Step One, Synopsis:
— Anna Mooney (@AnnaMooneya4) May 11, 2017
Step Two, A visual portrait:
Sam falls is known for photography, painting and sculpture. He combines conceptual puzzles with an artisans approach. Falls has cited the Chinese shape shifting game of tangrams as an influential creative reference which detail in his sculptures and geometric works. Using Photoshop I created an interpretation of a Tangram including A picture of Sam Falls at the bottom as a representation of how he explores and challenges arts capacity for representation.
Step Three, In the style of:
Sam Falls’ series ‘Rubbings’, whilst somewhat abstract in appearance and in colour scheme, represents specific natural finding in places that are important to the artist. These works are imbued with a strong sense of place. My response to this concept was to create my own rubbing focusing on creating an abstract portrayal of urbanisation in Coventry. The rubbing was taken from an interesting and textured section of grating.
Step Four, The task:
5 A Day
To me the phrase 5 A Day has always meant eating enough fruit and vegetables a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, to my dad, this little phrase driven by the World Health Organisation is associated with a daily intake of 5 tablets which help to keep him alive.
I will attempt to explain how and why in more detail. But, first I need to introduce my dad. It will make it easier to tell his story if you can relate to him a little. My dad’s name is Owen. He doesn’t like to openly admit it, but he is 50 years old. To people that don’t really know him, he appears to be a normal, slightly greying man who is fit and healthy. To his close family and friends, he displays symptoms of tiring easily.
About 18 months ago following a rapid and unexpected deterioration in his health, Owen was admitted to hospital. Eventually, he was diagnosed as suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy which is more commonly referred to as chronic heart failure. A series of medical tests comprising x-rays, blood tests and various scans revealed that his heart is enlarged with stiff and thickened muscle and extensive tissue scaring. This damage is non-reversible and has significant impact on how the rest of his body functions. For example, his heart pumps far too slowly but also beats far too quickly. Owen’s heart can’t pump his blood around his body as it should do causing his blood to thicken and become prone to clotting which in turn increases the risk of him suffering a stroke. It’s strange to think that this slow flow of blood causes the kidneys to start failing resulting in a steady build-up of water retention which can eventually become life-threatening as his lungs fill up with water.
His 5 A Day tablet regime is a mix of unpronounceable pharmaceutical names: Rivoroxaban, Bisoprolol, Eplereone and lastly Entresto, which is taken two times a day. Combined they help to treat Owen’s high blood pressure, thin his blood, act as a diuretic and keep his blood vessels from narrowing. Lastly, one of them, a breakthrough medication in the treatment of chronic heart failure will provide him with some longevity. Whilst our family struggle with the implications of his diagnosis, Owen is matter of fact. He knows that his future is uncertain. His heart is dying but yet he’s still alive and he’s very grateful. He often shrugs his shoulders and matter-of-factly says ‘Well I never wanted to live till I was old anyway!’
Step Five, Critical rationale:
My interpretation of trying to picture what ‘death in life’ is in response to Sam Falls’ contemplative question was quite personal. It is synonymous to terminal illness which cannot be cured although it may be kept at bay. Its associated debilitation itself is a death of function and activity etc. even though the person remains alive.
My dad’s chronic heart failure is an example of this. However, I faced a major problem in trying to visually illustrate his illness to ensure that a connection to ‘death in life’ could be understood by an audience. Sally Mann’s ‘Proud Flesh’ is a series of photographs which reveal a very real and personal portrayal of her husband’s battle with muscular dystrophy. They provide a visual account of how his muscle is wasting away resulting in a detrimental effect on his way of life. My dad, however, exhibits no external symptoms. Therefore, a series of portraits of him, his medication, excerpts from hospital letters may provide some documented association but not a real account of details. This led me to write a simple and factual story which relates itself to my dad’s real life experience of suffering from chronic heart failure, its associated symptoms and implications and how this can identify with ‘death in life’. Because this response is very personal to me I felt that a story of text on paper or appearing in a digital space would allow me to detach myself from the visible effects of my emotion then if I had presented an interpretation in audio format.