Blood on Silk: the Violence of Medicine

Fiona Davies, Blood on Silk: The Violence of Medicine I (detail) 2020.

Conceptual Background:

The American academic Johanna Shapiro in a 2018 essay establishes a framework of types of violence in medicine that ranges from the systemic bureaucratic “organisational violence”, originating from the hospital’s architecture and design, noise levels, access to public transport, and the edibility of the hospital’s food, through to physician arrogance and what Shapiro calls “the laity’s faith that medicine can solve all problems”[1].  This framework could be extended to understand the end point where violence is inherent in keeping people technically alive while prolonging a meaningless existence.  The framework does not define violence in terms of motive or intention.

In this suite of five new works Blood on Silk: The Violence of Medicine I to V,  the focus will be on those aspects of violence in the practice and processes of medicine that are commonly overlooked or accepted as just the way that things have always been done.  In this first work currently in the early stages of development the domesticated objects of non-medical retro Tupperware containers will be used as a low tech means of displaying the imaging of specific body conditions associated with levels of violence in their treatment. Each of the five table-top works will encourage an intimate relationship between the viewer and the work as only one or two people will be able to see each fragment of the imaging at the same time. Through the intimate and the domestic the work will both attract and repel.  A performative element continuing the suite of fairy tales Once upon a time, long ago and far away, a series of negotiations between Death and the patient, will form an additional means of activation of the emotional landscape of the experience of the violence of medicine.

  1. Johanna Shapiro, ““Violence” in Medicine: Necessary and Unnecessary, Intentional and Unintentional”.Philosophy, ethics, and humanities in medicine: PEHM Vol. 13, no. 1, (June 11, 2018): 6-7.