Towards a Scientific Model of Disability

Memory Jar Collection 3

Colour photograph of glass jars on a glass shelf, containing photographs of animals and people.

Colour photograph of the top half of a fluffy white and dark tabby cat, laying on a turquoise silky bedspread.

31) Gobbolino's head

April 2011

This photograph shows the stray cat Bob after a few weeks living in my studio. What a transformation! While I imagined that, at best, he would want to spend most of his time outside and would more likely wish to return to my partner's garden, he made it clear from the start that he was home to stay. When Bob first arrived he had open sores on his head; however, these soon healed and his wide, flat head became soft and fluffy. While my other long-haired cat, Gif, purrs constantly, after a few days Bob began to sing and never stopped. When I returned from my trip to Glasgow, he told me that his full name was Gobbolino, after the children's book character who had numerous adventures before fulfilling his ambition of finding a home. This name certainly fitted in better with my other animals: Genie, Gif, Jester and Jinks!

Colour photograph of the head of a young man, with dark hair and beard, wearing a grey t-shirt.

32) Michael's head

April 2011

This photograph was taken during my Abnormal exhibition workshop at the Torch Theatre's Joanna Field Gallery in West Wales. Michael, who is a RADA-trained stage manager who briefly worked as my assistant when he lived in London, set up this self-portrait himself. He explained that people often project emotions onto his face, imagining that he is cross, miserable or depressed, but that this is simply how he looks and his emotions may be completely different. If Michael was a woman, he would continually be heckled by men shouting "Cheer up love, it might never happen!"

Colour photograph of the back of a woman's dyed red hair against a background of trees and grass. She is wearing a pink striped shirt and the fleece on the back of her wheelchair is the same colour as her hair.

33) Kat's hair

29 April 2011

The artist Katherine Araniello is known for her flame-red hair. Here Kat had matched the sheepskin on her wheelchair to her hair, and then dressed in a pink striped shirt to complement it. This photograph was taken during a picnic at the City of London cemetery in East London to commemorate the first anniversary of my friend David Morris's death.

Colour photograph of the side view of a woman whose blond hair has been streaked pink and tied up behind her with a gingham hair band. She is wearing elaborate black-framed glasses and a multicoloured scarf.

34) Michelle's hair

29 April 2011

The poet Michelle Baharier runs Cooltan Arts, an arts organisation for people who have experienced or are experiencing mental distress. Michelle's multi-coloured hair is reflected in her choice of clothes, and in particular in her scarves and tights. When she steps up to the microphone to read a poem, Michelle reminds me of a medieval troubadour.

Colour photograph of a small tabby cat sitting on the top of a television which itself is sitting on top of a wardrobe. The cat is reaching down towards the picture with her paw.

35) Dorcas's paw (on the royal wedding)

29 April 2011

The little tabby cat Dorcas came to live with my partner after Doris died in 2009. Dorcas had been fostered by our vet together with a black and white kitten and they were inseparable, so Christie came too. Although they had been given a clean bill of health, the kittens turned out to carry a parasite more often found in tropical birds, raising questions about whether they had at some point been through a pet shop although they were still very young when they came to my partner. The effects of the parasites meant that their litter trays needed changing twice a day for months, and yet the smell still lingered. Once they recovered, they turned out to be the naughtiest cats we had ever known. Here Dorcas is on top of the television, batting her paw at Prince William as he processed up the aisle on his wedding day.

Colour photograph of the lower half of a teenage girl's face, with braces showing.

36) Niece's teeth

1 May 2011

Like many teenagers, my niece has to wear braces on her teeth. As a result she has developed a way of talking and smiling which means that her teeth never show, so she was very brave to trust me here and allow me to photograph them. Actually, she has lovely teeth, and will be pleased she wore the braces when she is older.

Colour photograph of a man's hand in a flesh-coloured splint, resting on a striped maroon settee.

37) Tony's hand

8 May 2011

My friend Tony is an artist and designer - he designed the book which accompanies the Abnormal exhibition - and as such is heavily dependent on using his hands. However, because of the after-effects of meningitis, he falls regularly. Here Tony is wearing a splint because he fell walking his dogs on the quayside where he lives in Lower Town Fishguard, and cracked his wrist. He will have to wear the splint for six months.

Colour photograph of a hairy grey dog's head and shoulders, against a background of a striped maroon settee.

38) Teacup's eyes

8 May 2011

Teacup is a lurcher cross, and came to live with my friends Tony and Michael after she was found wandering outside their tea factory in Pembroke Dock. The local dog pound said they were too full to take her while they searched for her owner, and later said she would be put to sleep if she couldn't be rehoused quickly. Teacup did have a microchip, but mysteriously this appeared to be Canadian-made and was not registered to an owner. Tony and Michael couldn't resist her eyes, so she came to live with them. She uses the same expression every time she is naughty - several times a day!

Colour photograph of a small dark bird with a bright red beak, sitting at the bottom of a cage. There is food and water in the foreground, and through the window behind the cage rooftops are visible.

39) Lance's beak

8 May 2011

Lance the finch belongs to my friends Tony and Michael. His partner, Tracey, died 18 months before this photograph was taken, but Lance continues to thrive after the pair originally moved with the boys from Deptford in London to West Wales. This is the third place in Wales where Lance has lived, and he continues to greet each morning with the loudest singing I have ever heard from such a small bird. His song never fails to make me smile; Lance is the happiest alarm clock in the world.

Colour photograph of a greyhound's nose and teeth.

40) Gem's teeth

8 May 2011

Gem is a retired greyhound who was adopted by my friends Tony and Michael from Romford Greyhound Rescue. She had been so badly treated by her previous owner that he had ended up in prison. After Gem first came home, she was very nervous and irritable. When she was introduced to my dog Genie, she swung round on her lead and snapped at her, narrowly missed biting her tail off. Genie's tail has been slightly kinked ever since! Later, when we stayed with our friends after they moved to Wales, Gem spent most of her time trying to catch Genie off-guard so she could eat her. However, they are now best friends too!

Colour photograph of a greyhound's black tail and back legs, against a background of a green patterned blanket.

41) Gem's tail

8 May 2011

Gem the greyhound now spends a great deal of her time wagging her tail. Because of the neglect that she experienced when she was young, her skin and coat were very thin for a long time. As she is also a very big dog, this meant that she often cut herself when her tail touched a wall or door, spreading blood on every surface that she touched! Fortunately this is no longer such an issue. The funniest memory I have of Gem's tail is when her owners were renting an old water mill, and agreed to let a team of ghost-hunters stay there overnight. I got fed up of waiting for my partner to stop watching the hunt and come to bed, and took Gem and my dog Genie to find her. As the ghosthunters had switched all of the lights off in order to carry out a seance, they had rather a fright when they heard Gem's tail slapping against the doorway as she sensed my partner coming towards us!

Colour photograph of a young man's ear, surrounded by short dark thick curly hair.

42) Tony's ear

9 May 2011

Tony has a cochlear implant under the skin behind his ear, but he rarely uses it. Rather, he believes that it has been responsible for a range of health problems, and that his mother was bullied into agreeing to the surgery when he was a child by being made to feel like a bad parent when she was unsure about going ahead. While many deaf people have welcomed implants - which, although people often believe otherwise, do not create the same aural experience as nature - many other Deaf people believe that cochlear implants deny them their true identity as a cultural and language minority. Critically, Tony lost his familiarity with British Sign Language once the implant was in place, so he is now unable to take advantage of BSL interpretation at conferences and other events where it is particularly hard for him to hear.

Colour photograph of the lower half of a man's grey bearded face.

43) Rob's beard

12 May 2011

Rob Le Frenais is the curator for the Art-Science organisation The Arts Catalyst, and was instrumental in introducing me to 'Sci-Art'. Along with director Nicola Triscott, The Arts Catalyst invited me to participate in a week-long hands-on bioscience course for artists, run by Oron Catts from the Symbiotica Lab at the University of Western Australia. This led to the residency at the National Institute of Medical Research, which in turn led to the Abnormal exhibition. Rob decided to grow a beard in the run-up to his 60th birthday, with the intention of shaving it off when he reached this milestone. I took this photograph at the Hunterian Museum during a performance by disabled performance artists.

Colour photograph of three fingers with brightly decorated pink nails, resting on the control of a wheelchair.

44) Penny's nails

12 May 2011

The writer and performance poet Penny Pepper is always extremely stylishly dressed. After knowing Penny as a colleague for a number of years, we became friends after we both took part in Graeae Theatre Company's Rhinestone Rollers comedy wheelchair line-dancing troupe. With our fingers firmly on our joysticks, we made our powered wheelchairs do things that the manufacturers never envisaged! (My wheelchair engineer could not understand why my tyres were so unevenly worn, until I confessed that we turned clockwise much more often than anti-clockwise ;-) Penny has arthritis which affects the nailbeds, so she was extremely pleased to discover that the latest acrylic nails work well for her. This is just one of many wonderful designs that she has had painted on to her nails since.

Colour photograph of a seated woman's legs and feet in striped black and white tights and pointed black buckled shoes.

45) Penny's feet

12 May 2011

Penny has an amazing collection of shoes which she adorns her feet with, and as a wheelchair user she does not have to worry about the usual complaint, which is that the styles she wears are impossible to walk in. Really shoes like these are designed for powered wheelchair users - not only do you not need to walk in them, but the position of the footplates means that they are much more visible than when pedestrians wear them, and they wear out much less quickly. Penny's feet are described by the medical profession as being 'abnormal', but they are actually things of beauty. Even when I walked a lot, I could never wear shoes like these on my feet - nor, given my much more androgynous look, would I want to - but I love Penny's shoes.

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Colour photograph of glass jars on a glass shelf, containing photographs of animals and people.

© Ju Gosling aka ju90 2011

Funded by the
wellcome trust

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