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How to disappear (2020)

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(night)

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(day)

'How to disappear' consists of two series of self-portraits. In one, I test different ways of sitting in a single chair, in order to visually abstract the body. In the second series, I experiment with movement and long shutter speeds, trying to disappear into the wall or become invisible.


This series of self-portraits are created during the first shut-down of society due to covid-19 in the spring of 2020. I was sick then for two months, but since I was not given a test (at that time only health care professionals and patients in the high-risk group were granted testing) I had to isolate myself. I have multiple sclerosis and I have since then realized that I should have had the right to get tested since I am in fact in the high-risk group because of my inefficient immune system. If I had been tested I would have discovered that I in fact did not have a case of covid-19, but probably a treatable case of pneumonia. The problem was that, due to my poor immune system, this pneumonia stayed with me for two months.

 

It is not the first time that I have this experience of not being taken seriously in the health-care system. When I had my first MS-attack with extreme dizziness and other neurological symptoms my doctor did not even examine me, but told me that I probably had something called crystal sickness. This was not serious, and I was told to go home and rest. My symptoms got worse and when I finally (again, after a few months) was unable to walk without assistance I was granted an MRI of the brain, and I received  proper treatment.

 

My grandmother suffered her whole life from heart fibrillation, a treatable condition of the heart. But instead of taking her very physical symptoms seriously she was diagnosed with anxiety and given a heavy and calming medicine, a medicine that she stayed addicted to her whole life. Her heart fibrillation was not diagnosed until she was an old woman. To this one might argue that it happened in 'the old days', surely this would not happen today? But think again: It sounds unbelievable but a few years ago I was offered antidepressants when I was seriously sick (again: pneumonia) after being treated with a form of chemotherapy for my MS. Some forms of pneumonia, as I learned, can not be seen in a simple blood sample, but only with an x-ray. After they did an x-ray on me I was finally offered antibiotics. In other words: the doctor that offered me antidepressants in stead of antibiotics, as she should have, could have killed me. Due to being exhausted from sickness, I did not complain. This is a systemic and a feminist issue, and it binds me and my grandmother together. I do not believe it is as common to offer antidepressants to men to treat their physical symptoms. It is the historical legacy of the female condition 'hysteria' that makes itself known in my grandmother as well as my own story.

 

With these photographs I express the feeling of being forgotten, being made invisible, and disappearing from society. This is not a feeling that is limited to 'covid-times', but it is very much the feeling one gets from being handicapped or long term sick in our result-oriented, production-crazed society. In fact, when I called my doctors office to try to get help with my symptoms I got asked if I needed a sick leave from work. Since I did not need this, or so it seems, they considered it not to be urgent to help me. Thus, due to my perceived 'unproductivity' in society it was okay to leave me alone with these symptoms for months. This is the feeling of being nothing and nobody.

Not having access to health-care while being required not have contact with other people as long as I had any form of symptoms not only left my pneumonia untreated, but also left me completely isolated for almost two months in a small apartment. And my daughter had to stay with her father. The self-portraits in ‘How to disappear’ are made in a few days at the end of this period - when I was starting to get better and needed a creative outlet.

Edition: 30. Printed on fine art cotton paper. Prices depend on size. Please contact me for prices.

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