The Nurse 2001
For several months I looked at nursing sites and chat groups on the Internet. I asked nurses to tell me, anonymously, what they thought was important about their profession and to share stories about their relationships to patients. I asked patients to tell me about their experiences with nurses. I began to see the same words appear over and over again in stories from the nurses and patients. I etched these words onto the surfaces of large porcelain pills. The pills would site the words in a medical setting. The choice of the words reflects my interest in semantics and how meaning in language shifts from one speaker to the next. Most people have had some sort of experience with a hospital and contact with a nurse. I hoped that the words would evoke a memory within the viewer and then engage his or her involvement with the piece.
There was a video projected on the gallery wall. The viewer hears the sound of a nurse putting on and taking off latex exam gloves. The video and sound is in slow motion, the audio so slow that it sounds mechanical, representing the over-riding presence of technology. The video image of the nurse is from the viewpoint of the patient in a bed. The nurse, who is preparing for a procedure, puts on her gloves and then holds her hand with her fingers interlaced against her body. This is the sterile position assumed in an operating room before a procedure is begun and thus anticipates touch. All of this is meant to put the viewer in the psychological position of the patient.