The three-dimensional installation is designed to replicate my bedroom, which became a prison during my illness. This prison was a physical entrapment. I was not strong enough to get out of bed. It was also a mental prison as my life had been put on hold. I had no idea when, or if, I would get better.
The installation has two purposes. It maps the journey through my illness as a timeline, showing the feelings and experiences that I encountered from 12/01/2014 to 15/08/2016 when I finally conquered it. As such, it is designed to inspire hope in others who might be suffering from traumatic illnesses, experiencing the isolation I felt during my darkest moments.
The project makes visible the various stages of my illness. I was bed-bound: severe sweating, fevers, injections, mental pain, these were my daily companions. The mental pain was by far the worst. Why me? What is this illness? Will I ever recover? I am young. Just a teenager. How can I handle the conflicting advice from professionals, doctors, and consultants? Is this a life sentence? I am exhausted. I can’t keep up with my friends and family- I am alone. These are just some of the mental thoughts and issues I struggled with on a daily basis. The work focuses on entrapment and isolation - being closed off from the world. The room manifests my deepest dreams and darkest thoughts. It is a reflection of and a response to my mental and physical maceration.
The construction of the room was very important. I wanted it to resemble my bedroom, whilst conveying the horrors of a solitary confinement cell. The scale of the room was inspired by the enormity of Damien Hirst’s glass vitrines. The dimensions are 14 feet in length and seven feet in height and width. The room is created from used materials, which I obtained whilst trawling around scrap yards. This was inspired by Kurt Schwitters’ ‘Merz buildings', which are constructed from waste materials. The process of building from materials seemingly no longer of use reflected my feelings of low self-worth at the time.
Over the course of the module, I experimented with different mediums to catalogue my illness.
In October 2016, I experimented with an empty room, to signify feelings of isolation. In November, I displayed the rubbish and debris I had collected during this period. This included my used pill containers, which I strung across the room as if to confront the visitor upon entry. I displayed letters from my medical appointments. I wrote and hung on the door a detailed three-page description of my journey. I exhibited graphic photographs of my symptoms on the walls. In December, taking inspiration from the artist Jim Shaw who draws on his experiences of dreams which play with the viewer’s thoughts. I sketched my dreams and thoughts, which were focused on confusion, despair and isolation at the time.
In January 2017, I exhibited two large oil paintings, two metres in width by two metres in height, on the exterior of my room. The brightness of the paintings outside portrays the complete contrast between the beautiful world outside and the world of isolation in which I found myself. In February I created for the viewer a physical connection between the outside of the room and the inside. I picked through emails that I had sent to myself in moments of despair and I selected some of the darkest reflections. I decided to graffiti my room using some of the most distressing comments linking the colours of the graffiti with the paintings outside. A visit to Oscar Wilde’s ‘Exhibition’ in Reading back in November 2016 encouraged me to create poems about my troubles; these were added in March 2017. Further inspiration came from Oscar Wilde’s letter ‘De Profundis’, and his poem the ‘Ballad of Reading’ which he wrote when incarcerated in Reading gaol. My poems focus on the recurring themes of fear, worry, isolation, and physical and emotional pain.
After obtaining feedback, I decided to add another dimension to the room – audio. Through a series of interviews, initially with myself and then with my family, I intend to capture the impact the illness has had on our lives. The interviews with my parents and my friends will look to capture the impact my illness had on them. In an effort to make the interviews more personal, they will be presented using headphones.
For the final show my intention is to bring multiple mediums together to create a powerful message where audio, visuals and literature combine to convey my story. The ultimate purpose of this project is to show others how isolation and despair are often more painful than the underlying symptoms, and can become a never-ending cycle that can be difficult to break.