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The Medicine Chest


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  • The body fluid

    "We shed many skin cells – at a rate per hour it comes close to a million cells per day. New cells generated at the bottom of our layered epidermis push their way to the top, where they are weathered by the environment and our daily activities. ​ As the living body breaks down, it becomes lodged in skin pores and clothing fibres. It is inhaled, irritates, is sneezed out and blown afar; it collects in corners, and gathers on surfaces. It welcomes company, joining with soil or, lifted by weather patterns, combines with volcanic eruptions, pollution and plant pollen, or with animal bodies, minerals, and even with burnt meteorite particles – all the while becoming increasingly microscopic and indistinct. The body, now fluid and divisible, transgresses boundaries. Transformed and nomadic, it inhabits spaces without detection. That is, until a ray of sunlight reveals drifting motes hovering in the air, or a missing shoe leads to the surprise discovery of a copulating fluffle of dust bunnies under the bed. In Gutspeak, these former remnants of ourselves are gathered by the artist Dominique Edwards from the tools used to seemingly eliminate them, and turned into sheets of paper. On closer inspection, these sheets reveal a multitude of its separate components: eyelashes, cosmetics, grains of sand, diminished chewing gum wrappers and pubic hair. There is also glitter. And a surprising amount of it. Are these cosmetic ingredients? Or...perhaps meteorite particles?"
  • The Tide Turns Installation

    Tumble dryer lint
  • The Tide Turns Installation

    Paper works made from new mops, used mops and tumble dryer lint. Sculptural installation consisting of one small intermittently rotating mop and one large continuously rotating mop.
  • Mop

    Videos projected onto a floating screen
  • "I have scars on my hands from touching certain people"

    "The words of Seymour Glass, eldest sibling of the Glass family – a lesser known creation of J.D. Salinger’s literary world. The story of this family of child geniuses, who appeared on a 1927 radio quiz show called 'It’s a Wise Child', is chronicled in three of his books – mostly centering on the relationship between the two eldest brothers, Buddy and Seymour. Salinger favours Seymour. He was the most brilliant and idiosyncratic of all the children and unfortunately, for the most part, only present as a memory – since he committed suicide, age 31. ​Buddy reminisces about one specific Seymour moment: His mother urging him to see a psychiatrist and him telling her that he doesn’t need a head doctor – he needs a hand doctor or a dermatologist, whereupon he looks at his hands and tells her he has these scars – these discolourations on them – from touching certain people. Certain heads, certain colours and textures of human hair leave permanent marks on him. When he put his hand on his little sister Franny’s head when she was still in the carriage, it left a mark. Or with her twin brother, Zooey, when he was six or seven, during a spooky movie. He put his hand on Zooey’s head when he went under the seat to avoid watching a scary scene. It left a mark. Other things, too. Charlotte, the girl he was in love with, tried to run away from him once and he grabbed her dress. It left a permanent lemon-yellow mark on the palm of his right-hand (Salinger 1964:59). His hands were filled with these discolourations – these physical manifestations of his emotions. They became a type of medical condition. And he needed to cure it" (Liebenberg 2011: 91 - 93). Salinger recounts the day of Seymour's suicide in a short story he later wrote, called 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish'.
  • Neck-support

    "Made from oak, the object was used to support the neck of an individual during post-mortem examinations conducted at the University of Cape Town’s mortuary unit. My first encounter with it was in Dr Yeats’s office in the Pathology Learning Centre, many years ago. Heavy in weight and invested with the traces of hundreds of individuals, it somehow seemed more representative of disease, than the 3500 specimens floating in formaldehyde displayed in the surrounding rooms " ( Liebenberg 2021: 257).
  • Pattern recognition

    A display in Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town. The label reads: ​The History of Crockery Apartheid did more than separate the races. Parallel with the separate crockery for the different religions (Jewish = Blue; Muslim = Pink) was a range of separate crockery for the staff and patients of different races. Here are a few examples of this complex collection: ​Royal Blue: Jewish patients and staff (kosher) Dark Navy Blue: "European" patients Green: "European" staff Maroon: "Non European" patients Black: "Non European" staff Pink: Muslim patients and staff (halaal) ​These pieces of crockery are now part of our history and all patients are served meals in the standard rectangular crocker plate.
  • Skin

    I collected leaves from the gardens around Groote Schuur Hospital and gave them to UCT dermatologist Ranks Lehloenya for analysis. Using the strategy of directing insider focus to an outsider object, Lehloenya treated these specimens as sections of skin and read them accordingly, highlighting sections that showed signs of nummular eczema, acne, ageing, miliary tuberculosis and melanoma, to name a few (Liebenberg 2021: 277). This example was diagnosed as follows: "This section shows characteristics which could point at various causes. The darker raised sections could be blackheads as seen in acne (note the darker central area reminiscent of an open pore); villous hair cysts ( a condition in which hair follicles are trapped under the skin to form pimple-like structures with the hair giving a dark hue in the centre; syringomas (non-cancerous proliferation of sweat glands); infections such as chicken pox or miliary tuberculosis in which the infection spreads from the blood onto the skin (miliary mean it looks like a millet seed). It could also be metastatic melanoma that has spread from another area onto this skin".
  • Skin

    I collected leaves from the gardens around Groote Schuur Hospital and gave them to UCT dermatologist Ranks Lehloenya for analysis. Using the strategy of directing insider focus to an outsider object, Lehloenya treated these specimens as sections of skin and read them accordingly, highlighting sections that showed signs of nummular eczema, acne, ageing, miliary tuberculosis and melanoma, to name a few (Liebenberg 2021: 277). This example exhibits an annular pattern which could be an infection like a ringworm (fungus) and erythema migrans of Lyme’s disease; or inflammatory conditions like nummular eczema, erythema marginatum as seen in rheumatic fever and granuloma annulare.
  • The broken tulip

    "During the period known as tulipmania which transpired in the Netherlands during the 17th century, contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. Tulips that displayed a break in their colour reached prices far higher than those that didn’t. It wasn’t until 1920, after the invention of the electron microscope, that scientists discovered that the cause for this symphony of colour was a virus that spread from tulip to tulip by Myzus persicae, the peach potato aphid. ​Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire, explains this phenomenon: “The colour of a tulip consists of two pigments working in concert — a base colour that is always yellow or white and a second, laid-on colour called an anthocyanin; the mix of these two hues determining the unitary colour we see. The virus works by partially and irregularly suppressing the anthocyanin, thereby allowing a portion of the underlying colour to show through — creating the magic of the broken tulip. A fact that, as soon as it was discovered, doomed the beauty it had made possible" (Pollan 2003: 97 in Liebenberg 2011: 92).
  • Semper Augustus Tulip

    ​Photo of Semper Augustus watercolour, captured whilst perusing the Pera Museum, Istanbul, 2013
  • Smallpox

    "In Kimberley in 1883-4, several leading doctors with links to the diamond-mining industry publicly denied the presence of smallpox among migrant workers, instead diagnosing them as suffering from a rare skin disease. They appear to have done so lest admitting that the dreaded smallpox was raging, which would have affected the supply of labour and materiel and thereby interrupting mining operations. Led by Cecil Rhodes’s friend, Dr Leander Starr Jameson, measures to curb the epidemic were sporadic or, in the mining compounds, non-existent, and cases topped 2000, with mortality at 3.5 per cent of the population. Only when the colonial government eventually called in external doctors to diagnose the disease, was the cover-up terminated and vaccination, fumigation and isolation vigorously pursued. The conspiracy of denial, by retarding action and sowing doubt about the need to be vaccinated, had been responsible for no small percentage of the 700 deaths in the town" (Phillips 2012: 32-33).
  • Iron and Arsenic Compound

    "Tonic. Use with caution. One to two may be taken with a draught of water, three times daily, as a tonic during convalescence from malarial fevers, or as an alternative in skin affections" (BWC 1925:129)
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