A forgotten building lies a mere 200 yards from my home, almost completely hidden by a screen of brambles, nettles and rampant buddleia. It was once a care home for elderly dementia sufferers, but was suddenly closed in 2007 as a result of two consecutive very poor CSCI inspections. The twenty two residents were transferred to other accommodation in the Swindon area almost overnight and the building has been unoccupied and slowly deteriorating ever since.
Very few confirmed details are readily available about the reasons for the closure and However, it appears that it comprehensively failed an inspection in November 2006, partly because of concerns about how the staff were treating residents and partly because it did not meet several of the recently imposed health and safety requirements, such as each person having their own bathroom. Six months later, the inspectors arrived again, and were not happy with progress on the measures imposed by the previous report. They therefore deemed the home unsuitable for its residents and took the owners to court. It appears that the owners of the care home were either unwilling or unable to fund the required improvements and they applied for bankruptcy, while the residents were farmed off to any local care home which had space.
Throughout the world, the proportion of older people in society is increasing and resources are being limited. It is hard not to be aware of the difficulties we, as society, are beginning to face in securely and comfortably housing our elders. At least one in six care homes in the UK is close to bankruptcy, according to a study by Moore Stephens and while 70,000 new care home places will be required over the next 8 years, (The Lancet (2017) the rise in the National Living Wage AND Brexit are having a significant effect on the finances of care home owners and the availability of care workers. These macro level problems can be seen at the individual level in this series and ask us to question whether our older people are being treated with the respect and consideration they deserve.
Whatever happened to…..?
This last week has been very busy and I am only now able to site down and consider the feedback I received on my proposal for assignment 4. I explained the background to the images, my idea of matching them with snippets of old music hall songs. The general consensus was that the story was “tragic” and I might be minimising the shocking effect that having to move out at very short notice to places they were totally unfamiliar with must have had on the care home residents. We agreed that the overall effect should steer well clear of any suggestion of tweeness.
It was suggested that the Artist’s Statement might be all that is needed to accompany the images, and that it should be sufficiently informative to enable the viewer to consider what life at the home might have been before its sudden closure. I think it is time to return to my search for any formal documentation about the care home closure and why it failed its quality assessment so badly that everyone had to be moved out immediately.
Aside from my own work, the was the busiest group meeting I have attended with 15 participants, so the whole day was given over to looking at student’s work. A proper write-up of the day can be seen on the OCASA site at http://www.ocasa.org.uk/index.php/2017/09/21/thames-valley-group-september-2017-meeting-notes/
I have got so much going on at present that it is difficult to keep up with my blog, and I am falling behind. However, after an agonisingly long gestation period for assignment 3, I think this one will be a doddle. I took the photographs I wanted to use back in June and was waiting for the right assignment to use them. They are of an abandoned care home on my street which has been boarded up since 2007. Since then, the place has gradually been going to rack and ruin, something that has been documented over time by the local urban explorer (Urbex) contingent. I have wanted to visit it for ages, but was nervous of doing so alone, so when my photographer son came to stay, we spent a morning poking around the place and making photos and video clips. Here is one as a taster.
For the last few days, I have been thinking about how to use some text to add another layer to the images, and last night I found myself singing an old music hall song that my grandmother taught me. Eureka! I am going to combine the images with the words from some songs to give a flavour of happier times at the home, when I imagine the residents gathered around the piano enjoying a singsong.
Finally, I am also wondering about whether to put together a short video of the images, with audio of one of the songs to accompany it.
WARNING – this post contains images of nudity. NSFW
Several of my fellow students have been extremely helpful in sorting out how I should take the idea of working with a feminine or ungendered gaze on the nude male. My thanks to Stephanie, Micahel, Stefan, Kate and Gesa particularly and all the other poeple who have commented here on my blog and on the OCA Photography Students Facebook page – for me, the group feedback is a massive part of my thought distillation process and a part I could not do without. Their comments can mostly be seen under the Comments section in my previous post on the subject. The long and the short of it is that my original photos were actually quite traditional in their style and content, and that I needed to subvert them in some way to bring in the feminist perspective. Returning to my interest in C&N of using thread and cutting to alter images, I have been trying out a few different ideas and there is definitely something that I can work with here.
In the images below, I have firstly stitched the (Google Translated) Chinese word for womanly/obedient across the model’s rear and in the second, I have used a cross stich generator program to pixelate his genitals and then photoshopped the cross stitch colur chart in place of the real thing.
There is much research to do yet, on both the importance of tattoos (w/r to Image 1) and for both on the role of feminine arts such as sewing as acts of subversion to the genreally male-oriented artistic paradigm. (Note to self: look back at the concept of Subversive Stitching as a political statement)
Additionally, it has been suggested that I consider using Greek or Latin rather than Chinese to stitch words on the model’s body, which would reference the Ancient World’s obsession with sculpting the naked male figure. So much to think about, but I am moving this work onto Preparation for Assignment 4 in Coursework, as I will almost certainly be using it for the Assignment itself.