Harriet Welch

projects manager


Chronic: on textures, illness, and the endless scroll
MA Writing Project ~ Royal College of Art ~ March 2020 ~ 

A short series of extracts from ‘Chronic’:

One side of a coin, a world, a land, a state, or a kingdom—sickness has often been narrativised as a physical space although simultaneously it is not allowed to take up room in our cultural discourse. We cannot speak of what we do not have words for. Any attempt, including mine, to find these words, is purely that: an attempt.

Small silk covered circular shapes snake up the s-shape of your spine. Supposedly Siri can hear the metal teeth in a zip engage and mistakes the sound for a wake word. As you, or I unzip and dress or undress, Siri awakens and understands. One piece of fabric folds over another, loop, under, over, knot, pull through, and again. Isolate the body.

Self-care has become the primary form of care which is advantageous for neoliberal right-wing politics: a slimming down of the state health care and a focus on self-care, self-help, and self-development. You must ‘work’ towards your own good health when state care doesn’t provide it for you.

We talk of our lives being immersive. The state of immersion— means to be in     liquid, suspended, and held. We are 60% liquid and I inject one more millilitre which I incorporate into my body.

Fabric skims the skin. Clothes do not need to touch the flesh underneath unlike how you would think that they should. The body is supposedly self sufficient. The epidermis built up to create what you once considered a barrier, and now consider a perhaps futile protection. Note and contemplate that the skin does not protect from the inside out. There is nothing that can protect you from your own body attacking itself.

I remember the pain and panic etched on her face as she explained she was terrified of crying near anyone in case they caught ‘it’: to think that our tears could be that toxic: I thought of bathing in tears and of washing skin in tear drops. Contagious tears. Liquid.

The bright blue scrubs exposed you as a patient, exposed your body as a failure. The shade of the scrubs was the colour of the sky through the windows and the colour was muted by plasticised beige-roller-net blinds. It was a similar shade of blue to the cornflower hue of your veins which seemed heightened as the fluorescent yellow liquid slowly dripped in from the intravenous bag stand.

Now, scientists knit new skin out of skin cells: they loop, thread, twist, and loop again. They loop various messy tangles of skin-made-thread onto needles, loop again, twist, cut, spool, sew. They braid, twist, knot, crochet, and knot, with the woven skin to create new knitted material— a“human textile”.