The Field Hospital grew from my double career as an artist and a medical reporter at CTV News in Montreal. This body of work, comprised of bas-relief sculpture, assemblage, works on paper, installation, performance and photography is my response to the potency, volume and speed of the media messages which surround us.
How do we live under this fusillade of information about terrorism, war, murder, sexual abuse, homelessness, natural disasters, a threatened pandemic and ecological destruction?
Sometimes these events are far away, sometimes too close. The news media place them in full view, in our homes and into our psyches. In many senses we know too much to bear: the private made public, the danger made known, the vulnerability evident, the need crying so loud, the bungling so frightening. How do we deal with this?
These works take emotionally charged visual and verbal messages, and the electronic objects that contain them, and explore a process of transformation.
The Field Hospital springs from my experience as a consumer, a participant, a messenger and a gatherer of this information. I re-enlist the actual broadcast videotapes (called field tapes) and their boxes, now discarded. They have borne witness.
They are painted, pried open with wire, bandaged, repaired, strengthened with surgical tape, treated with oil. Some are bound with canvas and threads. Some are collaged with media images, others bathed in river water and mud. Some contain embedded cultural images such as paintbrushes and fragments of my own drawings and paintings.
These high-tech/low-tech pieces attempt to use art as a means of healing, a way to cleanse memory and restore the wildness of nature to these highly processed media packages. When they become an installation, digital photography serves as a record.
With Newscuts my approach begins with a newspaper page and the surgical removal of all content I judge disturbing. The remaining shreds are “treated” by soaking them in a culture of plasticizing medium, homemade vegetable decoctions and sometimes earth. One could say this transformation is my way of adding elements of life support.
I transplant this wet soft mass onto archival tissue. The resulting shape grows from the give–and–take between my hands and the censored page. At first I respected the rectangularity of the original. Sometimes the pages break out of their boundaries. Once dry, the newsprint becomes transparent and mirror-image words show through from the reverse side.
In Water Drawings, I collage cuttings from the Newscuts series onto long rolls of paper. I float the paper out onto a lake or pond allowing the wind and currents to give them their shape.
My approach to the The Field Hospital as a whole is the use medical and cultural metaphors to humanize and soften our mediatized world.
Anne Lewis Montreal 2006