'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Examination Cubicle 15

If confronted by a wrinkled old pink curtain in an art gallery...
Would you peek in?

If, upon peeking in, you saw some words back-to-front, and a single chair, would you go in and sit down?


  1. Truly a different sort of art!

  2. Interesting & unusual.

  3. Quite fun!

    How you feeling?

  4. Bett - Lizzy, I'm enjoying your reactions.
    Sistertex - I'm not quite 100% yet but getting there. thank you. As you can see by my end-of-term installation, I have tapped in to my hospital experience.

  5. All of this is very, very, interesting and I could write lots about this, but let me take just one aspect. I remember the time I first saw the words 'Nil By Mouth' - It took me a long time to understand what the hell it actually meant. On reflection I now see it as how even language itself is altered from 'Don't give any fluids or food' to 'Nil By Mouth' as a way of holding the patient and the situation at an emotional distance - empirical language for the science of healing? but ah! being emotionally connected helps heal us as well!

  6. Alden - Nil By Mouth - yes yes. Emotional distance. Which is also required to give injections (ie inflict pain). Which is in turn required as part of the diagnostic and/or healing process. Paradoxes abound in hospital.

    Did you click on the NIL BY MOUTH pic and read the small print?

    Looking forward to your reaction to that.

  7. I took the Nil by Mouth title of the piece to be a play on words of the hospital theme, but also the fact it was all language, all of it having been spoken or thought at one point, but now being conveyed as strictly visual, 'nil by mouth'... plus as it is on acetate, it's as if the words, conversations and unspoken thoughts are 'hanging in the air' around you...

    Well, that's what it says to me, an experience of waiting. Being confined behind the thin pink curtains and just... waiting.
    I like it a lot, Katherine.

    (Am I being too deep here and letting an Art background influence me?)

  8. The whole issue of what art is has troubled me since I was in my early 20s and very much involved with the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and various other art organisations.

    I saw The Bricks (can't recall its proper title) at The Tate in the early 70s and really couln't see how it could be art. I saw an exhibition by Tracey Emin at The Tate or National Gallery (can't recall which) a few years ago and couln't see art in that either (mind you much of that just revolted me).

    Yet Dali even in his more outlandish moments fascinates me. I wouldn't dream of saying his work was not art.

    So therein lies my dilemma.

    For me the word 'fascinates' is important. Yes, I would have stuck my head behind the curtain (wouldn't everyone have done so?). And I was fascinated. I enjoyed it. It made me think (I worked in a hospital many many years ago).

    Is it art? Do you know, I have no idea. But if fascination is the criteria the answer is 'yes'. It was an experience I'm glad I've had the opportunity to share.

    Thank you.

  9. Kitty - Thanks for sharing your reaction. I haven't strictly speaking, named the piece. I just stuck the sign on the wall of the cubicle. So sort-of thought the 'nil by mouth to be no more nor less important than any of the other bits... But seems that a. because it is in capitals and b. because it is printed, it has assumed greater importance than the other written information. I note that for reference.

    Yes, I did try to make the hanging acetate words things heard or thought / experienced by me while there.
    The waiting feeling I hoped to transmit. The curtain = a flimsy privacy while at the same time my own conversations able to be heard as easily as I heard other's. And the curtain able to be whisked aside in a second by a nurse or doctor. Although a visitor would never do that, of course. ie one curtain = two barriers. One of the many contradictions or paradoxes of hospitals.

    GB. Thanks so much for your input too. Glad you mentioned Tracey Emin. Or I was going to. Mine not so 'confessional nor personal, yet certainly it references my own reaction (Oooh Yuk) to her 'People I have Slept with' Tent...

    And no, many people would not open up the curtain, even tho' it was in our student gallery space. I thought that interesting. Perhaps a personality-dependant thing? A confidence thing?

    I have had positive/ interested reactions from many nursing staff, and mixed reactions from 'visitors'. Seems that people who have not spent time in hospitals don't relate to it so well. Understandable.

    As to the whole 'Is it Art?' question - well even Art critics and artists cannot agree so how can us mere mortals hope to answer that.

    Of course whether we define art or not, the ball keeps rolling on. Emin did stuff like this back in 1998 - conceptual art is almost passé in the rest of the world already and yet New Zealand is still reeling from the notorious 'pile of rubbish' being given a prize.

  10. I'm interested in the fact that people didn't open the curtain. OK I'm used to hospitals having worked in and been a patient (more than I'd really care to have been) in them. But surely even the most basic curiosity would require one to open the curtain in an art exhibition. I'm not the most curious of people but it would not have occurred to me not to open it (apologies for the double negative but I think it's appropriate).

    OK, That's my comment for now. I now have to demonstrate culinary art to the family ie feed them.

  11. GB. I should explain the setting - a student art space in which we were being formally critiqued after having a very quick look at the other students' works. So, especially for the first year students, it was a stressful time and three of them told me that they had taken one look at the sign 'Examination Cubicle' and assumed it was a space for the tutors. A number of others didn't realise it was an installation at all.

    Hope your family were delighted with your culinary efforts.

  12. I think what GB said about Art needing to 'fascinate' is a delightful way to put the interaction one has. Yes, fascination, thank you and agreed. Very well put, GB. That's concise.

    But also, for me, I would say Art need to 'make me think'. It needs to make me want to understand the viewpoint and the purpose behind whatever it is in front of me. It needs to create some kind of primal or gut reaction in me, no matter how slight, or, I just don't consider it Art... not to me at least. Or possibly, I'm not smart, clever or well-educated enough to 'get it'?

    Honestly, I consider many so-called 'Works of Art' to be naught but grand masturbatory exercises by pretentious Foundation Art level people with Turner prize-lined pockets, people that the Saatchi Gallery will later point to and fawn over. Media hype does NOT equal something that is *deserving* to be called 'Art'. Necessarily.

    But that is my opinion, anyway, and how *I* view it. I'm not expecting the world to agree. I'd rather the world agree on crème brûlée being a splendid dessert.

  13. What a wonderful tool language is. I suppose that I can understand from whence the students were coming. I suppose one of the advantages of age is that I would have looked regardless! But then I'm like that. I would suggest that art students should be of an inquisitive and exploratory mind too.

    The large amount of starters, lasagne (I make it because all the family love it!), salads and so on and fresh fruit and (I've just remembered that I forgot the meringues) cream and ice cream all disappeared - every bit! So it can't have been too bad. Either that or they were al exceptionally hungry.

  14. Now that's truly weird! LOL!

  15. Being of rather a sensitive nature (yeah right) I might not have used quite the words that Kitty used but I fear that the lady hath a large element of truth in that which she sayeth. I certainly know that when John Moores declared that a painter would be famous (and bought up his early works) that person would become famous!

    And I certainly agree about the importance of a good crème brûlée!

  16. Kitty: Yes - the whole challenge to thinking is crucial to me. There is a lot of crap insider art that commands high prices and/ or status, which, if it was me in there, I'd have trouble refusing and because it's not, frankly I'm probably REALLY jealous about.

    GB. I give the first year student another term or so. They are a little meek yet.
    The meal sounds perfect. Yum.

    Jay. Weird? Good. I think. More comment? I value your reaction.

  17. Wow...that sort of thing would probably result in a lawsuit in the US of A!

  18. 'Scuse my ignorance Sam... but why? Which bit would offend?

  19. "Your home away from home" is astonishing - your home? full of scalpels, blood banks and operating theatres? Ye Gods, whose home? the Marquee de Sade? - (well unlike de Sade the hospital uses anaesthetics) - To be fair I guess its really a statementment of caring intention, which works so long as you don't think about it too much.

  20. Well, yes, exactly. Once again the paradox - as soon as you've been in for a day, people begin to arrive bringing - what? flowers, to make 'your' cubicle homely. As soon as you are able, you arrange your things on your tiny shelf unit, ask for your own night attire instead of those useful (to staff) and embarrassing (to you) backless hospital nightshirts, someone brings in a silver helium ballon with "Get Well Soon" on it, another a teddybear clutching a red cloth heart, grandkids bring in messy kindergarten art - all 'personlised' signs that this cubicle has the stamp of its inhabitant.

    And the nursing staff smile at the paraphernalia and then totally disregard it all, and bring you injections, trips to the x-ray room, and measure your various bodily fluids and vital functions...

  21. I think this is a Hospital Cocoon woven by a healing spider...

  22. I once saw the following sign on a hospital room door:


    and turned to my wife and said, "That means 'normal post op', right?"

    and she looked at me like I was crazy, being a registered nurse and all, her I mean, not me, and replied, "It means 'nothing by mouth'!"

    and I felt stupid for the next hour or so.

    Thanks for reminding me....

  23. Ah, thank you Jinksy.

    Robert, I'm so sorry for inadvertently bringing to your memory an incident that you would rather have forgotten...
    How can NPO mean that anyway? Nothing Past the Oral Opening?
    Must be an Americanism.

  24. Katherine. I wouldn't have had any idea either if I hadn't worked in a hospital in the Olden Days. My school Latin was atrocious and it didn't appear in my Roman Law books so far as I can recall. I can't remember exactly what the words were 'Nil per something beginning with O which means mouth I assume.'

  25. Silly me. Why didn't I look it up. Nil per os.

  26. Ah. Excellent. You learn something every day.

  27. My problem, Katherine, is that for every thing I learn I forget two things that I have learned previously.

  28. The others beat me to it. Nothing Past the Oral Opening would be NPOO, wouldn't it? NPO is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Nil per os (Nothing by mouth), even though to me that phrase looks like Nothing by bone.

    When something has been ossified, it has turned to bone, it hasn't been nibbled to death.

    Live and learn.

    I enjoyed this post. I probably would not have looked inside the curtain. The Golden Rule, you know (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

  29. This post must have generated more interesting comment than any other I've read. Good for you, Katherine.

    I see that rhymeswithplague is suggesting that those of us who peered inside are somehow not doing unto others as we would have them do unto us and may, therefore, be perhaps slightly inconsiderate.

    I would generally regard myself (a very subjective judgement I have to admit) as being a reasonably considerate person. But this is a work in a presentational situation. It's not a real hospital cubical in a real hospital! Phew. Am I becoming too defensive I ask myself.