Being Towards Death, the exhibition

In Gallery five of the Sydney College of the Arts/ University of Sydney Gallery two Masters of Art Curating students, Tian Kang and Yunyan Tang selected my new installation Where they were last seen for their exhibition Being towards Death. Gallery five is an interesting mix between being a white cube and a non-white cube space. In this installation developed specifically for this exhibition and this site, the curatorial premise developed by Tian and Yunyang resulted in a more direct focus on the physicality of the Intensive Care Unit. The image shows a detail of one of the main elements of the space. The patient bedspace is sited directly underneath a large roof lantern or skylight. The overbed hospital table holds the bedside medical monitor playing the simulation of the visual data and sonic traces of a patient bleeding out while the silk paper bed and pillow shape refutes the functionality of the bed by its ephemeral, flimsy and seemingly transitory nature. The next post will address one of the other elements of the installation, the blanket work.

DSC04373Fiona Davies Where they were last seen (detail) 2018
Installation, silk paper, found objects, video, framed print, photographic print and fabric.
Size variable as installed Gallery 5 SCA Gallery Sydney. Photo credit Alex Gooding

In terms of the bedspace of the patient the body in healthcare settings occupies a complex but somewhat ambivalent position: it is at the centre of everything yet is at the same time oddly displaced and this is even more pronounced once that body is dead. Then apparently there is little tolerance for the sight of the dead body by others. Speciality transports are used to move the body from the place of death to the morgue. This conceals both the presence and/or the shape of the body.

It is possible that this well-intentioned consideration of the sensibilities of the living members of the public work to dislocate or sever the experiences of the recently dead patient’s family and carers. Until death they were associated with a specific location in the hospital, the bed or bedspace of the patient. After death and the transportation of the body to the morgue they tend to be cut free. There is no physical evidence of the patient in the public sphere of the hospital and the family and carers appear to be of limited further interest to the hospital.

The exhibition was part of the Curatorial Lab component of the Masters of Art Curating program.

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