Organs, bleaching is new work completed in 2020 consisting of life-sized, three-dimensional crocheted human abdominal organs laid out on a hospital bed. Some of these organs, or parts of them, are represented in white wool to show parts that were removed from the artist’s body during surgery in 2014. The design of the organs references the bleaching of coral reefs induced by climate change.
Organs, bleaching had its genesis in my diagnosis with Stage 3C primary peritoneal cancer (a close relative of ovarian cancer) in 2014. As I underwent chemotherapy and awaited massive abdominal surgery, I crocheted my threatened abdominal organs. These were crocheted in the round and stuffed like soft toys. This was a gentle, absorbing task that I found both relevant and reassuring.
As a climate change activist since 2007, I was aware of strong resonances between human responses to cancer and climate change: in the West, both rely on scientific evidence for phenomena that are potentially catastrophic but not, in their early stages noticeable (CA125 tumour markers in the blood; parts per million of carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere); both are susceptible to human responses involving denial and distress. Both cancer and climate change involve difficulties with facing facts.
For me, crochet has been a way to get out of my own mind and listen to what the more-than-human world - inside and outside of my skin – might have to say about cancer and climate change. After theorists Donna Haraway and Val Plumwood, I have found in crochet a way to both stay with the trouble and evoke a visceral sense of the agency of nature.
Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble : making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.
Plumwood, V. (2002). Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. Routledge.