"There is something not revealed as I am partially covered up in black fabric. Not only is it the affliction not obvious, but I also don't really want it to be obvious."

Impaired by X. Miixed media collage with flow of consciousness text. Copyright 2012.

INTRODUCTION

From an increasing sense of alienation and sense of confrontation with society arouse a new interest, one that focused much more pertinently than previously on the subject of invisible illness. This to me is a subject matter that is becoming increasingly potent in today's world. I'm especially interested in the way fatigue can prevent people from self-fulfilment and from integrating into society. In 2012 I decided to embark on an experimental project, researching ways of visually expressing this emotionally charged predicament. The sign "X" was also to be integrated into each piece. The project was finished in 2014.

WHAT IS X?

"X" stands for many things. X marks a spot - this is where the problem lies (it's invisible to the viewer so must be marked with a sign). X is an unknown denominator (in mathematics x is commonly used as the name for an independent variable or unknown value) - often when it comes to physiological problems, the causes and effects are not known or well defined and even diagnoses can be elusive. X signifies a multiplication operation - physical symptoms have a tendency of multiplying over time as one thing leads to another. X has crossed something off or out. X-rays reveal physiological disturbance invisible to the eye. X can replace the signature of someone who is illiterate - this could symbolise the inability to fit in. In some countries (such as Finland where I come from) X is commonly used instead of a tick in a box - I tick most of the boxes of someone who is crossed out of society, for instance.

There are also the X-files, which are not open to the general public due to their abnormal nature, and X-rated i.e. censored material which is also available only to the chosen few or those who especially choose to partake in this material. During the plagues, X's were drawn on the doors of those afflicted with it. "Shunning someone like the plague comes to mind...".But most of all, X is an abstract sign that points to a concrete phenomenon.

 

GALLERY- click on a picture to enlarge it

Fragmented by X i & ii. Mixed media collages with artist's photographs, medical records, drawing and diary text. Copyright 2012.

The two pieces above and below form a diptych about the fight against fragmentation of the body and mind.  Here "X" denotes an ailment unknown to the viewer. The two images feature photos of myself posing with black garments covering the afflicted areas and unable to see how my life might unfold due to the condition. There are photos I've taken of the Finnish winter by the Baltic Sea (the harsh climate is partly a source of the strength of will typical of people of the North - there is a paradox in that snow symbolizes emotional coldness but can also have a comforting quality), some coldly objective medical reports from Finland about my condition that contrast with my subjective experience, and pages from my diary. The "wallpaper" is a symbol typical in my art, as it represents "cover up". 

The first image is about external strength and weakness, the second piece about internal ditto and more specifically about creativity that radiates from the centre. The grids represent the attempt to hold everything together in the face of the pertinent entropy and fragmentation that threatens the afflicted person on a daily basis.

"There is something not revealed as I am partially covered up in black fabric. Not only is it the affliction not obvious, but I also don't really want it to be obvious."

The pieces also speak of a complicated and endless cultural identity crisis and issue with belonging to a culture which is tripartite. My mother tongue is Swedish as I belong a minority of Swedish speaking people in Finland, but in my adopted country I speak English - this is represented by the presence of text in Finnish and Swedish, and the shape of the pieces are reminiscent of the Finnish and the British flags. For instance phrases that surround the drawn characters burdened with fatigue are various complaints that people express in their heads or out loud. They are in my mother tongue Swedish because I feel I can connect with these ways of expression in a way I cannot in English. They express feelings such as "I'm a loser", "I can't go on", "It's hopeless", "I'm so fucking tired", "I wish I was dead",  etc. As I was thinking of various exclamations and general complaints I actually started to feel really bogged down - such is the power of negative thought.

Ultimately, I am on a journey of discovery. On the one hand, I have decided to experiment with different forms of visual expression within the confines of a specific theme. On the other, I am questioning whether it is always possible to triumph over adversity? The challenges of my life have been many, and often I was faced by problems that seemed impossible to disentangle. Very often I did it nonetheless. I want to see if there is a way in which disability not only teaches us about dignity, humility, compassion and the value of diversity, but also has a place in a human life that would be lacking in intrinsic value if it was too perfect. In the end I can only find out for myself by taking a philosophical, yet subjective and personal, look at these issues.

 

Your Indifference is Breaking My Heart. Mixed media collage with artist's photograph and pages from a 19th C book of moral poetry. Copyright 2012.

This piece featuring a photographic self-portrait and pages from a book of 19th C moral poetry, suggests that society’s attitudes towards those who are unable to cope on society’s terms are Victorian.

"This is personal. It's about you and me. Look me in the eyes and tell me you really don't care that I'm not as able bodied as yourself.  Look me in the eyes and stop giving me moral BS about contributing to society on your terms. You feel you have the right to assess and determine my abilities, but what does that even mean? I am a real, unique human being, not a pity case whose job it is to help you feel good about yourself. I need your support and compassion to be the best I can be and contribute as well as I can! By ignoring me, I am not going to go away.”

Even After All These Years I'm Still the Same. Mixed media collage with artist's photographs, copyright 2012.

“Every day is a day of self-assessment. Some days I'm energetic and alert, some days I'm not. Eyes open – awake and aware. Eyes closed – tired and unaware. My life is a rather tedious story of repetition. What I do to survive is always the same. How I work on changing my own attitudes is always the same. This is the monotony of a chronic condition. There are things I can't change, or only with great difficulty. I try, I really try. What more do you expect from me? I think back, and I can see some changes for the worse, and some changes for the better. Ultimately, after all these years I'm still the same.”

Even After All These Years I'm Still the Same - detail