Picture your poisons

Caitlin McDonald (Artist), Inge Panneels (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact

Abstract / Description of output

Picture Your Poisons is an intimate portrait of a cancer treatment journey. One in two people will be affected by cancer during their lifetimes, including one in five women with breast cancer. The glass casts featured in Picture Your Poisons ground viewers in the real-world material origins of systemic anti-cancer treatments through the specific lens of one patient's course of treatment. By materialising each treatment, the casts allow viewers to explore data which is more usually presented in an abstract, clinical context through a striking visual medium that elicits an emotional as well as a cognitive response. The artwork encourages the viewer to explore aspects of the patient experience relating to bodily autonomy, selfhood, and dis/empowerment in medical contexts by confronting them with the disembodied partial body casts of the affected breast. The difference between medicine and poison is largely one of dosage. Substances which in one context are deadly (and indeed, used as weapons) are also life-saving. Picture Your Poisons explores this relationship using glass, a substance of many dualities: brittle yet strong, transparent or opaque, malleable yet firm. Glass is forged in a transformative process of great stresses on the raw materials, and similarly, cancer survivors endure treatments which radically transform their bodies in order to survive. Creative Informatics research associates Inge Panneels and Caitlin McDonald joined forces to create this striking visual display based on Caitlin’s own experiences with cancer treatment throughout 2023. Caitlin’s inherent curiosity about the origins and functionality of her own treatment and Inge’s expertise in glassmaking facilitated a collaboration resulting in a unique new artwork. Over the course of six months, Inge and Caitlin worked together in Inge’s studio in Lilliesleaf to create six glass casts representing visual references to the substances and processes forming Caitlin’s treatments: yew bark, platinum and carbon, Tuscan red soil bacteria, mustard gas, radiation, surgical tools, and modified mice proteins.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2024
EventThen & Now: 100 Years Of VAS - Centenary Exhibition - Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Feb 202413 Mar 2024

Type (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Art


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