During most of World War II tuberculosis was treated by isolation, rest, nutrition and clean air. Sanatoriums to provide treatment including isolation had been established in the Blue Mountains for many years and infected soldiers were often treated here.
Coughing up Blood is concerned with an individual patient infected with tuberculosis, not the statistics on the total number of deaths or the frequency of infection, nor on the public health programmes designed to reduce the numbers of infected. This work focuses on the sick returned soldier, alone, frightened and uneasy. It is the landscape of the liminal space of the patient in isolation, both physically and emotionally. They exist between the well, well enough and the dead, the soldier and the civilian, those “over there” in immediate danger and those in limbo at home.
This is not a visually complicated work. The elements are stripped back to the minimum. You can see the hospital curtain, the inner isolation room, the empty bed and the back-lit image of the infected lungs. The beautiful but ineffective hospital curtain is made of silk paper hanging high above our heads unable to provide what is expected. It can’t be washed. It doesn’t give the patient any privacy, sight, sound or smell. Bad news given to the patient behind the curtain can be overheard by others on the ward. The bed is empty the patient is elsewhere. Their absence if felt with unease by the visitor. They may have died. There isn’t a new patient in the bed yet. It must have only just happened.
In her work Fiona Davies focuses on the liminal and temporal nature of death as it is framed by illness and disease within a hospital. Her solo exhibitions this year include Woven at the State Silk Museum in Tbilisi, Georgia and Cast a Cold Eye on Life and Death: The Remake: Medicalised Death in ICU at SCA Galleries Rozelle. Earlier was Gore at the Joan Sutherland Theatre Penrith, and the first Turbine Hall commission at Casula Powerhouse, Blood on Silk: Last Seen curated by Lizzy Marshall. Her group exhibitions include three Kiosk exhibitions for MAPBM and Blood Attract and Repel at the Science Gallery, Melbourne curated by Dr. Ryan Jefferies. Previously she was awarded a 2016 residency by the Bavarian State, Germany for a collaborative project with Das KloHäuschen, Munich.
© Resilience in Times of Adversity, 2019