Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "My Lovely Brain"
Mixed media collage, copyright 2013.
My latest collage was tricky, it took me quite a while to decide how to express the idea of pressure on the brain. The process was quite tentative and experimental. I scanned loads and loads of images to use and ended up using only very few of them. In the end I chose this strange machine that has a sense of mystery and surrealism to it. It conveys the idea of constant pressure on the brain. The image of the brain is really a map, which underlines the idea of "the map rather than the territory" with the sign X all over it to mark the spots. The X's denote the areas that are troubled, which is basically all of it. The sketchy and inaccurate nature of this old map of the brain reflects the way I see my own brain, i.e. without much knowledge of its actual anatomy. I wanted to address the brain as I've been thinking quite a lot about how this solitary organ, that almost appears to be floating in space, has to manage the rest of the body, and ultimately is the one that takes the blow when life is overwhelming, sensory input isn't processed properly, and sleep isn't restorative. The case of "the map rather than the territory" also highlights the fact that although the brain appears to be the organ that's the closest to our sense of self, it's still an object. I don't believe that the seat of consciousness is in the brain as Dr. Dennet would have it. But unlike in the case of problems with most other organs, if we're brain dead or the brain is severely malfunctioning, we're no longer of any use in this realm.

I wanted to try out the use of crackle glaze so that's what constitutes the ground in this image. The portrayal of a landscape was something that I hadn't planned, but just happened as I was going along. I wanted to underline the sense of illness of the brain, so I added the sickly yellow colour at the very end, holding my breath while I was hoping it wouldn't ruin the image. 

At the core is the rose, symbolising what is still beautiful about my brain and cognition in general, as well as the compassion I have for a part of my body that's struggling to cope with sleep deprivation and medication.

Making it all straight and lined up is difficult for me, I do try very hard but somehow there's always some alignment I manage to screw up. I think in my case the imperfections are part of the work and who I am, and shouldn't be seen as shortcomings. It's not easy for me to accept that there's always something not quite right, but on the other hand imperfection is part of being human and therefore has a place in  the grand scheme of things. Everything these days tends towards the glossy, highly perfected and sanitized... I really want to stay out of that myself. So therefore I continue to try and work by hand, as long as I can. Ultimately, because I'm not able-bodied, my abilities will never be perfect. Human imperfection is something that those who represent the norms of society need to tackle. I speak for everyone out there who has had to concede that they are disabled in comparison with most people who are able to participate actively in society. Not until society embraces its disabled organs, can it become whole.

I have one more image about invisbile illness in mind. After that I think I probably want to change gear and work on a slightly different note. At some point I just have to concede that I have enough images about difficulties and now is the time to look for answers. There is, of course, no guarantee that I can think of solutions in this regard. I mean that expressing solutions to the questions and problems raised through Project X simply may not be possible. We shall see.

One more thing... I few weeks ago I hastily applied for a year long residency for disabled artists at a University just before the deadline. It really was a bit of a tester, and I didn't really expect to get it. I tried not to worry about it too much. I didn't even have time to consider whether I would be able to do such a thing or not. It would have involved spending two days a week on location. In retrospect, I think it's something I might have been able to do, because there was quite a lot of money involved that would have made it possible for me to make it all quite comfortable for myself (easy train rides, nice stays overnight and so on). Getting out there would have picked me up quite a bit. But competition is fierce and some people just know how to apply. They also have track records. Whether their art is really interesting and meaningful is questionable - I don't mean to say it isn't, just that I would probably think very differently from the way the judges view these things. My kind of art still seems to fall outside of neat categories. 

In spite of my intention not to care, the rejection made me feel very discouraged and prepared to give up art, I cried a bit, and then got over it. Recently, I have been thinking about how I could use my own disheartening experiences to help others like me... if I had the resources. It's interesting to ponder, what group of people I would like to support because no one else does, or you end up in a peer group that isn't quite right for you.

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