About Stories of a Body

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Stories of a Body was a performance created in 1989, and was supported by the Grace Fields Live Art Commission in Rochdale, Englad
The work was prompted, in 1990, by my initial visit to a medical doctor. Without much preamble or invitation, he launched into a speech about how “thalidomide had been such an awful tragedy” and how I must feel “very angry” towards him and the medical profession in general. Then he waited for me to respond. I expected he wanted reassurance and curiously, forgiveness. As an adult I was able to be clear with him how I wanted him to relate to me as my G.P., and that his feelings of guilt and regret regarding thalidomide ought not to be part of that.

Even though `i felt competent in dealing with the situation, the incident shook me and reminded me forcefully of how I had been disempowered as a child - how I had been stripped naked, objectified and desensitised over and over by the medical profession as they tried to label, categorise, define and re-define my very existence.

I remember remembering it all, recording it in my child’s memory as if to act as a witness in my adulthood to the indignity I endured as a child. I remember the big words they used. I remember their recommendations when I was two years old, how their artificial arms would fit me better if they sliced off my little hand.

Most of all, I remember their horror at my condition. I was treated me as if I were invisible and incapable comprehending the judgments that were being made about my life then and my future now.

They were not the only ones in my life to treat me as if I was invisible and incapable of comprehension. In fact, being treated in this way is a regular part of my life and in many ways in doing this performance, by standing here, naked in front of you; I am trying to hold up a mirror for you,

I am making you question the nature of your voyeurism.

©Mary Duffy, 1991