Kirsty Hall positively encouraged people to handle the stones that formed her installation at Shoddy – and visitors to the exhibition complied. They found the stones pleasing and complex, and many wondered how on earth the artist had managed to swaddle them so tightly and neatly! Here’s what she says about the installation.
1: ragged or disreputable in appearance
2: being in a decayed state or condition
255 stones encased in recycled white cotton: one stone for each month since January 1995 when I became ill with ME/CFS.
The work explores the on-going nature of chronic illness and the way that many impairments are invisible. The work speaks to the inherent contradiction of disability – that we are so often perceived as vulnerable, worn-down or damaged yet we often have a hidden core of inner strength. We need that strength not only to accommodate any limitations of our own bodies but also increasingly to deal with the prejudice that disabled people face in these harsh times.
The piece references the British thriftiness of ‘make do and mend’ and the Japanese tradition of Boro. It uses recycled fabric from my own life, including fabric from my first art installation from before my illness. The sewing is deliberately rough and threadbare, emphasising the oldness of the cloth by leaving small holes, raised seams, frayed edges and darned areas. The smooth stones become uncomfortable to hold.
On a personal level, this piece is about coming out. I spent many years denying and hiding my illness, at one point even concealing it from my family. It is the first time I have made art explicitly about my ME/CFS and the enormity of seeing 21 years of illness made manifest has been sobering.
Repetition, obsessiveness and the use of humble materials are common aspects of my practice. This is partly determined by my physical limitations – ‘little but lots’ is a deliberate strategy that allows me to continue to make art.