I’m going to open this piece with an apology to Dido Haas and – especially – to Wicked Eiren for coming to Body Language/The Invisible Woman relatively late in the day, the exhibition having opened at the end of June 2022.
Located in Dido’s Space within Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, this is a tremendously powerful selection of black-and-white art in the personal message it contains – although the images themselves, as can be seen by the banner image for this article – should be considered NSFW.
In the physical world, Wicked suffers from Complex Chronic Disease, also known as Central Sensitivity Syndromes (CSS), a health condition that combine a very range of symptoms and conditions from a number of recognised illnesses including (but certainly not limited to) Fibromyalgia (FM) and Myalgic encephalomyelitis, and which can be complicated by chronic viral conditions such as the vicious Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) and bacterial infections such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, each of which can give rise to multiple health conditions.
Such are the complexities and symptoms involved – physical, mental and psychological – CCD / CSS conditions are extremely hard to recognise or even correctly diagnose and they manifest in so many ways, individually and collectively. A further complication with the conditions is that they are further exacerbated by the central nervous system repeatedly misfiring, amplifying the sensory symptoms and leading to CCD / CSS being referred to as “pain without cause”.
This latter point does not mean that for the sufferer, the pain and related fatigue and mental anguish do not exist; the symptoms are very real and very physical, and require a complex approach to diagnose and care.
Unfortunately, the fact that the symptoms do seem to be without underpinning, easy-to-understand causes can result in those who have not experienced the conditions to dismiss both symptoms and sufferer (“oh you look fine!” or whispered “X has this mental thing” or “it’s just attention-seeking”, and so on) . This in turn can lead to a highly negative internalising of the conditions and the symptoms on the part of the sufferer, causing further withdrawal from the world.
Body Language/The Invisible Woman is a subtle but exceptionally powerful statement on Wicked’ life with CCD / CSS, with the pieces presented speaking to both reality and desire. The desire to be seen, to be able to look at oneself free from the tyranny of discomfort, pain, fatigue and mental sluggishness – to be seen – in Wicked’s case – as a woman – beautiful, free, whole, and desirable; the reality in the ever-present company of those symptoms that force her to stand aside or hide, exemplified by both the poses used (note the use of light and show, the placement of hand, the crook of finger or thumb, urn of head, direction of look – all intended to hide as much as reveal) and the subtle rash-like lines of her body.
In this, the use of nude images should not be mistaken as being simply gratuitous or for the sake of titillation. The conditions associated with CCD / CSS are not something those experiencing can merely weather and “get over” through time and medication; rather, they defined the person experiencing them – however unwillingly – as keenly as their skin, that is as ever-present and familiar as the shape and lines of their own face. As such, the use of nude images serves to emphasise all of this, underlining the manner in which CCD / CCS is as much a constant to life as is flesh itself.
Similarly, the use of black-and-white images is evocative of the manner in which life might appear to feel: washed of colour and vitality; a plain mix of light and dark that personifies the wish to retreat, to hide. It also most effectively underscores the central tenet to the exhibition, as does the intentional monochrome lighting and overall presentation of the hall itself a monochromatic finish of its own: that those who experience CCD / CSS so often encounter a two-dimensional response from others: they are seen, but not who they are, because their pain causes them to be denied true expression and/or to be cosseted, be it out of lack of understanding (the aforementioned “it’s all in her head”) or over-protective response (“you shouldn’t be doing that! Let ME take care of it!”) that can be as equally denying and born of a lack of understanding.
Remarkable and powerful, Body Language/The Invisible Woman is so deeply layer, there is much more I could say about it – but really, it is a collection of images that should be seen and allowed to speak for themselves, so I urge you to pay a visit before the exhibition closes, and let the pieces there speak to you directly – and be sure to taken the introductory note card from the board within the hall to learn more about Wicked and CCD.
- Nitroglobus Roof Gallery (Sunshine Homestead, rated Moderate)