Tuesday, September 16, 2008


On Sunday, Hope and I went to see a piece of installation art called 'Transplant. This was the result of two artists, a photographer and a sound artist, being resident on the transplant ward at Harefield Hospital. Their aim was to capture the experience of those undergoing mainly heart and some lung transplants during that time. With one of the artists being a sound engineer, auditory perception was a key theme and central to the patient's experiences was the idea of having sensory deprivation, having to remain in their rooms, at the same time as sensory over stimulation, on hearing all the call bells and alarms from the rooms surrounding them. The exhibition took the form of large portrait photographs, each with a short sound track of their voices telling us something about their experience or recordings of sounds that they would have heard around them during their time on the ward after their transplant. The soundbites came out suddenly with silence between them. It was a bit eery and un-nerving in many ways. It was very powerful. Hope had never been to anything like that before and was very excited by it, if a little scared by it whilst in the room. It did have a very haunting quality. It was art to be involved in rather than to enjoy.

The experiences portrayed in the work were very interesting to me. With William being so young there is a lot he can't put into words and probably doesn't even think and feel. There was a theme of having to adjust psychologically to the new organs and learn to accept them as part of you, if you ever do! From my limited experience so far, children don't seem to question in this way - they just have their 'new tummy' and get on with it. I wonder if there comes a point later in life when they question and this psychological acceptance becomes an issue? I can relate to the simultaneous sensory deprivation and overload - I'm sure anyone who has lived in a hospital for any length of time can do so.

The installation was very simple and very complex all at the same time. It was accompanied by a book of essays written by the artists, patients and a psychologist who works with the patients to help them adapt to their transplants. The book also contains a DVD of all the photos, together with the sound recordings. I plan to spend some time looking at it all again and reading the book over the next week or so. I am sure this work will be the subject of more blog entries as I explore it further. There is a fascinating month by month account of the development of the project over the year of residency (http://www.thetransplantlog.com/ )

Hope and I went onto the Tate Modern after visiting the installation. We came home with a bright green 'The Bigger Picture' eco bag full of pencils (and a rubber), sketch books and a couple of books on creativity and techniques. We also came home with a huge amount of inspiration. I write about it avidly, on here and in diaries and journals. I am now exploring other ways to record my experiences and emotions using photography (in a more artistic way, as well as the kind of photos I take and put on here), drawing, painting and writing and putting it all together in a more 'multi media' kind of journal. I am not the best skilled at art but I have always been creative. I have long felt a real need to create something out of this and feel this even more after experiencing this piece of art at the weekend.


Emmie said...

Hi Sarah, I don't know if you would be interested, but there are 2 workshops running at the Tate Modern this week (Thursday and Friday from 3-5pm) on this subject. The write-up says "A workshop to consider 'Transplant' (the installation) in the context of the Tate's collection of contemporary art, focussing especially on issues around identity and the body".

Anyway, just thought I'd let you know. If you want me to try to get you tickets to the workshops just drop me a line at emma@livelifethengivelife.co.uk

It sounds a great exhibition and I really hope that lots of people manage to view it before it closes at the end of September. Thanks for writing about it!

Sarah Milne said...

Thanks Emmie,
I REALLY wanted to go to this but the time is no good with being at school with Wills, school run, children home at the end of the day etc....