Art or therapy? – Where it all began

Where it all began… This video work led me to write an abstract for a conference in 2012. My paper was selected but I wasn’t able to attend (because I had my fourth miscarriage!)

The interest shown in the work and support from the Family Ties Network members partly inspired me to pursue this work and I was finally able to talk at their event in November 2013.

Here is the origianal abstract and some of the themes I will explore for this project:

Marjolaine Ryley: ‘The Thin Blue Line/The Deep Red Sea: Artists -Explorations of Miscarriage and Loss’; Abstract from ‘Family Ties’ conference at IGRS Seminar, London, 2012.

“This paper takes its title from a piece of work I made after experiencing my second miscarriage and before my daughter was born. This video piece represents a moment ‘frozen in time’ where creating art out of the horror of the experience became not a critically engaged artistic choice but a therapeutic necessity. Despite having made work for many years that moved between the personal album and the social document I had never before knowingly entered the realms of ‚’art therapy’. The photo-therapy work of Jo Spence and Rosy Martin gave us a way to understand the potential power of photography in particular as a tool for interrogating the meanings of family and its associated imagery. That this cathartic re-enactment in itself became the critical imperative behind the work and the focus of subsequent readings encouraged me to re-consider my own work within a critical framework.

Through an approach, which draws on my own autobiographical explorations of this subject as well as those of a range of artists working across photography, photocollage, video, sculpture and text, I examine this troubled and secret side to ‘the family’. By exploring and questioning the ever-fluid boundaries between art and therapy I examine the ways in which ‘unseen’ loss may be remembered and represented. Looking at imagery such as scan photographs ‘home made’ ritualistic objects, memento mori and ‘blogsites’ dedicated to expressions of grief and remembrance (reminiscent of the traditions of Victorian death portraits) I also consider the interface between the materiality of objects and the ethereal and virtual world of the web and its vernacular content. I suggest that pregnancy loss may just be an unexplored area of ‘cultural memory’ a vast, unopened ‘vault’ of experiences of ‘life at the edge life’. By examining our own, as well as differing cultural and historical perspectives we might ‘look again’ at the significance of pregnancy loss, re-defining its cultural status and positioning it as a valid addition to the study of  family memories.”



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