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Andrea PhilipsClick here to Print this Page
Katherine Meynell
It's Inside (made in collaboration with Alastair Skinner, 2005) is a large mixed-media installation that unites many of the lines of flight Meynell has chosen over the past decade and a half.

Commissioned by the Wellcome Trust (the irony of whose sister Foundation's involvement in biopolitical governance was not lost on the artists), the work tracks the development and treatment of Skinner's bowel cancer. The installation included video and sculptural elements arranged carefully but in an understated manner. A tracking shot of Skinner's body with a Hickman line inserted in his chest was projected on a slow motion loop; a bronze cast of the Hickman line was mounted on a sheet of barely-visible anagypta wallpaper. The work was an exercise in picturing illness, posing questions about the way in which artists and scientists might use and see images and objects in different ways. Two bowls of cherries in jelly, formed from the descriptions Skinner gave of how he pictured the cancer, were placed discretely at the gallery's peripheries. Watercolours of cells dividing and replicating revealed the curious patterns of the body. A series of Catalan 'shitting men' (caganer) were mounted in small vitrines on the wall. On the floor were large slates engraved with illustrated instructions for the use of surgical instruments found on the back of medical packaging. A bank of video monitors showed the performer Gary Stevens personifying a cancerous cell, dividing and replicating himself.

Meynell's concerns in It's Inside, with the body, its representation in medical science, and the contrasting ways in which an artist might visualise a medicalised state, might amount to a purely bio-political analysis of the mechanistic grip in which contemporary subjectivity is held in both illness and health. Yet this work, like those she has made previously, brings to the material a lightness and humour that distracts the singular force of information that is, of course, hard for anyone to stomach. Distraction, in this sense, is both a technique that dissipates the easy resolution of a concept, and a demand that we keep ourselves open to different ways in to the material.

Andrea Philips
Dr Andrea Phillips is an art historian and Assistant Director of the Curating Programme, Goldsmiths College, University of London where she is also Director of the research initiative, 'Curating Architecture'. She writes on contemporary art, mobility, politics and the public realm.
Still from Its Inside by Katharine Meynell, 2005
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