The following story was submitted by Lisa Martens as part of the Share Your Story project.
To view all projects submitted by Lisa, click here.
The way this story is told is a bit different. It is told through art. Normally, I would place any “about” information below the submitted art. However, this time both the “about” and the art are equally important to understanding.
After you read the story, click on the thumbnails to view the art. After, I strongly recommend visiting Lisa’s website to view more of this amazing and fascinating picture story.
About Lisa Martens:
As I face the last few weeks until I graduate with my BA in Art through Curtin University in Australia, I am reflective about my progress. My studies and art has been my saviour. It has grounded me, given me a voice, buoyed me when I was in deep depression and isolated due to constant pain and medical surveillance. I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008, after years of searching for an answer to my crippling pain, chronic exhaustion, cognitive problems, skin rashes, swollen joints, mouth and nose ulcers and losing my hair! The physical and mental stress affects not just the person with this condition, but also impacts on family members and friends. I feel I will never be able to adjust to this condition, and often believe if I accept it, it means I give in to it, however I also recognize if I fight it, I will never find some kind of normality. This is why I say my studies and art has been my saviour. Focusing on concrete rational objectives has kept my mind and body busy. Juggling family life with study and illness has been difficult but extremely rewarding. I often think about those times I was so close to throwing it all in, and giving into the pain, cocooning myself, pitying myself, hating myself. How easy that would have been. But where would I be now? I thought it was ironic I should be finally, after years of putting everyone first, apply to study art, only to find some days I could not hold a brush, a pencil or charcoal, because my hands were so swollen and painful. But in some ways, these difficulties where the seeds of inspiration-discovering new ways to apply paint, to run ink, to caress charcoal onto a heavily textured support-finding new ways to mark an empty space enabled me to think divergently, allowed me to be more experimental with my processes.
The last year of my degree involved self directed learning, students create a negotiated proposal which develops independently, and they investigate a concept which they feel most connected and passionate about. I began by exploring entropy, which was a reflection of my body; I kept imagining my immune system attacking my body, the rashes which appeared on my body felt like deposits from an internal war. The days when I couldn’t draw I used photography and film as a tool to document my body, capturing macro imagery which allowed me to explore the microscopic terrain of my own skin. Becoming familiar with the intimate creases and marks felt empowering,connecting to the physical changes and recognizing patterns increased my interest in scientific processes and highlighted for me, the ease in which my body became less of a subject and more of an object. This was a frightening discovery, because I had been struggling to connect with my Doctors who treated me less as a person and more as an object-my disease and its effects far more fascinating than I was as an individual.
This estrangement was isolating.
I was beginning to object to the barrage of repetitive questioning and the habitual routine physical inspection with each visit with my Doctor. Understanding the logic behind this practice did not relieve my aggravation, it frustrated me. Flicking through reams of files, reports and data relating to the results of tests felt dehumanizing, I was being medicated according to statistics, I became a collection of binary numbers, where was my narrative? Finding a voice through my studies has enabled me to stand back and consider from many angles my place in this medical relationship, looking for ways to destabilize power relations and taking into my own hands my own physical examinations and use them however I wish has been cathartic. The images which are presented on my web site are a result of exploring, through art, the meta-narratives of medical reasoning (as posed by Foucault in his book The Birth of the Clinic 1976), which address scientific discourse that relies heavily on a form of objectivity which invites distance and detachment rather than engagement with a subject. I have been investigating ways to enlarge on the consequences of the clinical gaze by exploring the idea that a subject’s narrative is being replaced by the disease and location. By manipulating software to further broaden on the concept of the medical gaze, I wanted to probe the objective body (it) known through third person observer, as a passive object, depersonalized, reduced to the sum of its malfunctioning parts and counter this position by examining the subject body (me) phenomenological body, known from inside and experienced by me through photography drawings and film.
The following work is conceptual, I hope the viewer will be interested and curious and trust seeing imagery at a macro level through photography and film will induce a feeling of wonder. I anticipate the audience can thoughtfully reflect on the correlation of the body as subject and object and recognize the physical anonymity and powerlessness felt by a subject within the medical realm.