Measuring My Days (ongoing)
Reclaimed glass jars, water, food colouring, paper, ink, cotton string. Size varies
'Measuring My Days' is an ongoing, conceptual artwork, which uses reclaimed glass jars (saved during the pandemic lockdown) to create a physical, visual diary that attempts to give space and weight to the ‘invisible’ illness of chronic fatigue. The project attends to my personal experience and takes inspiration from two poetic lines: ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’ in The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock by T. S. Eliot, and ‘Something is always born of excess’, written by Anaïs Nin in her diaries. This artwork has been my attempt to reclaim every day that I lost to medical issues, by capturing, containing, and taking back my days, especially during lockdown. Through it, I have tried to highlight this overlooked illness, reframe my health, and enable an alternative perspective on this last year.
In 2018, I had a cancer surgery which resulted in major complications. It left me unable to function as I had, and I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue by the end of the year. I struggled with my daily life and getting through each day...my creative practice suffered as I suffered...I was tied to my living space and could not be in the studio. I began obsessively charting my daily symptoms to find their patterns and document my days to aid discussions with my doctors and direct medical testing. I was in the process of creating my ‘new normal’ when the pandemic struck in early 2020. I continued charting throughout lockdown and while I had Covid in March 2020, anxiously tracking my fevers and chest pains early in the pandemic against the 7–10 days that the medical community identified as the critical period. My health chart includes thirty-two fields about my body, emotions, diet, exercise, and environment. It uses a rating system of words and colours.
When I was quite sick (as I am in recovery-remission at the time of this writing), my days were so structured with the timings of self-care, that the shape of every day was very similar. Many of my therapies revolved around strict diets to consume nutrients and medicines at specific times, therefore, when I began developing the project, I opted to use the kitchen to find my raw materials. I chose glass jars for their common, transparent nature. They were also readily available to me because many of my diet foods were packaged in these and recycling had been put on hold due to Scotland’s lockdown restrictions. I used the same jar type to represent each day on the chart. If the shape of a day was notably distinctive from the rest, then I used a different glass container to indicate this.
I translated the health chart data into a value system of food colourings named by the maker after fruits and vegetables, which I combined with a set amount of water to mix each day’s colours. Basing my colour choices on my chart, I used reds and pinks to indicate bad symptoms and a set of greens to show the positive. For instance, my ‘strawberry’ food colour is equal to the red-black of my chart, indicating a high pain level or serious symptom. I topped each jar with a minimised image of my chart, with the represented day highlighted in yellow. I tagged each jar with the date, its value, and food colouring contents. Jar bottoms have labels with my actual chart data as ingredients. 'Measuring My Days' reframes my accounting of my illness to make a conceptual artwork through which I enact the analogy that the healing process is like the creative process.