“As embodied species, we share a common vulnerability emerging from the condition of living in bodies and in time. But, importantly, vulnerability is also socially, politically, and economically created and differentially imposed. An acknowledgement of vulnerability, both shared and produced, can open a space of interconnection as well as a platform for responsiveness and resistance. Vulnerability shapes an open-ended temporality – that of the threshold of an alternative, remained reality.” (Hirsch, M., 2016)
In the first two years following my mesh surgery in 2009, my bedridden and heavily medicated body was not my body. Locked into stasis, my daily labour became one of sustaining existence. I couldn’t walk, sit, stand, care for my two-year old son, or properly support my twelve-year old daughter through her teenage and high-school years. I couldn’t work, have sex, or wear normal clothes like underwear. The pain from the mesh implant in my groin was torturous. It felt like a cheese-wire slicing through my pelvic region. Social media became my source of contact with the world outside. Trapped by debility and unable to function, I turned to Twitter as a platform to express myself by writing micro-narratives. The Twitter character limit of 140 characters (as it was then) was the framework for the writing I produced.
Vulnerability is generally understood as victimisation and passivity, invariably the site of inaction. Through challenging this binary, we can begin to question power and agency, notions of vulnerability and resistance, and the conventional gendering of vulnerability as being essentially a feminine trait, a sign of weakness. Imagining instead that vulnerability is a condition that gives rise to the very possibility of resistance and empowerment, I was able to hold onto some semblance of the person I was before mesh shattered my body and my world. I wasn’t able to write every day, but the creativity and productivity helped me to come through some of the darkest of days. The liminality of existence I was experiencing is perhaps one of the most potent themes of this writing.
I decided to create a series of art postcards using a selection of my favourite micro-narratives. The death-mask portrait was taken for the front of the postcards. This was a selfie that I took using my phone. Again, this image was created in bed. I did a small print run of ten Tweets and ordered the prints from an online print store recommended by a friend. The day the box of printed postcards arrived in the post, I felt happy and excited for the first time in a very long time. Art has the power to ‘lay bare’ our vulnerabilities and transform them. In thinking vulnerability and resistance together, our pain can be turned into power. And that, is revolutionary.
Postcards From My Bed – work produced between 2010 – 2013.