ARTWORK > Malcolm

Malcolm is a long-term project about my father, who was diagnosed initially with manic depression and later with schizophrenia. These terms have always felt like desperate attempts to categorize various experiences they cannot contain. We didn’t talk about it, but it effected the whole family, and we’ve all experienced our own ‘mental illnesses’ since. I’m interested in suppressed mad histories and the burgeoning Consumer/Survivor/X-inmate movement. I identify with how this composite term expresses ambivalence toward the medical-model of madness (a term ‘mad-activists’ reclaim), in how it both supports and dehumanizes different individuals.

My dad Malcolm died at 59 after a heart operation. The sedating medication, and the experience of being classified as ‘abnormal’, were factors in his physical health. As my first experience of losing someone close to me, I wasn’t prepared at all. In not discussing the intensity and complexity of grief, our culture makes it doubly painful and isolating.

Malcolm had a ridiculous sense of humour. Passionate about ecology and environmentalism, he valued life above all else. Yet he was extremely hard to communicate with about emotions, or his own destructive behaviours. It was always impossible to get a straight answer, and I wished we could know each other beyond making puns and a shared interest in astronomy (he believed space travel was imperative for the survival of the species). The variety of forms of image-making I use in Malcolm reflects how complex and contradictory it is to create a ‘portrait’, a cosmology of a person.