A short video, four minutes in length, documenting some of the first games played of Racing Patience ICU. The artist Fiona Davies plays against the performance artist Tom Isaacs and the curator Lizzy Marshall.
In the card game Racing Patience ICU there are two players. One draws a central card that describes the patient’s stats when entering ICU. Starting at the same time, one player represents the ICU team trying to bring the patient back into the normal or survivable ranges for blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygenation and rate of respiration. The other player sometimes called Death, attempts to take the patient out of those survivable ranges. Each player attempts to track the four parameters, keeping a rough tally in their head of the changes in the patient stats as each card is added to one of the four stacks. The players turn over their cards in groups of three, being able to play the top card only.
It is not a social or fair game. It is extremely competitive and can be rough and physical as each player tries to get their card onto the stacks in the centre. Importantly there is no concept of taking turns. It requires an ability to focus on many things which are changing, all at the same time.
At the end of five minutes an alarm sounds. The game is over. On a count-back the winner is decided. The winner is who determined whether the patient during that particular five minutes was in or out of the survivable range for the four vital signs. Who knows what happened in the next five minutes and if the ethics of particular interventions that drove the often widely swinging changes of the parameters were ever able to be considered.
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre presents its inaugural Turbine Hall Commission, Blood on Silk: Last Seen by established Western Sydney artist, Fiona Davies.
For this new work Davies will transform the Turbine Hall by creating five suspended makeshift hospital rooms from handmade silk paper. Representing the merging of public and private spaces, Last Seen investigates the emotional landscape that carers and visitors have with the hospital environment experience.
Fiona Davies is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. Davies’ works are multimedia installations encompassing both the real and simulated. She holds a B.Sc (UNSW) and Bachelor of Visual Art (UWS). She was awarded a MFA from Monash University.
Her current theoretical practice examines ICU medicalised dying, intertwining emotional knowledge with contemporary medical practices – specifically, definitions of death, the materiality of blood and processes of surveillance. Her ongoing project, Blood on Silk (2009 – ) included working in collaboration with the late physicist Dr Domachuk.
She exhibits in both formal institutions and non-traditional spaces nationally and internationally.
The Turbine Hall Commissions offer visitors new perceptions of our architecture and public spaces through site responsive artworks.
Fiona Davies The Remake (working title) Video still, 2016
I finally started the making of a new project two days ago. The image above is from the first bit of footage I’ve shot. The idea for the new project had been as simple as doing a remake of Bergman’s film the Seventh Seal set in a large contemporary western ICU ward. When I say a remake, really what I am interested in doing is thinking through some of the major ideas of the Bergman film – faith in God and the afterlife versus nothingness, the impact of an apocalyptic or crisis driven environment, faith in the face of the absence or silence of God, and a questioning , to the point of distain, of the value of an institution such as the church. All of these can be distilled to the tensions between the identifiable/ known and the unidentifiable/ unknowable.
I have always thought that there is something of the medieval in a large contemporary ICU ward where elements of the guild structure operate in an apocalyptic or crisis-driven context. Think also about the role of faith not necessarily in God but in someone else being able to save the patient from death, the imperative to compete or gamble in order to prolong life.
Of course there is also the beauty of Bergman’s austere visual aesthetics, the format of the film, the focus on a few artefacts or props and the character role played by the landscape including the shots at the beginning and end of the film of a dramatic sky. Hence my first footage was of the sky dramatically lit. This initial footage will be seen out of a small half-open window from a slightly old-fashioned hospital staff toilet, will be a recurring element. This scene has been influenced by my recent very productive residency at Das KloHäuschen in Munich.