'I have an animalistic feeling of something lurking deep inside me, the bubbling mood swings dictated by the moon cycle that make me vicious and snarl ... the side effects of my cyst ridden ovaries permeating through this thin skin. The wolf that sits in my throat.'
Cooke Latham Gallery are pleased to present an installation by Lindsey Mendick exploring the often painful and shameful experience of having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and its heart-breaking side effects. Through the guise of a fertility clinic for Werewolves trying to shed their lonesome curse, Mendick explores the suffering of living in an invaded body with a forced identity.
As a result of PCOS, many people suffer from excessive hair growth (Hirsutism). In a definitive study on the condition, ten women were interviewed to discover its impact on their lives. Four closely entwined themes were revealed: "the body was experienced as a yoke, a freak, a disgrace, and as a prison". The Werewolves of Mendick's waiting room epitomise these themes. She explores the toll that her diagnosis aged seventeen had on her relationship with her body; the prospect of infertility, the heavy and irregular periods, the increased progesterone that encourages beard and moustache hair. Mendick compares this daily struggle with the werewolf in metamorphosis... the back breaking, body altering, painful transformation that we encounter so often in folklore and horror fiction.
Unlike the supernatural context which provides a backdrop to much of the horror genre, Mendick's installation is grounded in a mundane hospital waiting room. The room itself is pastel hued, the walls lined with seemingly innocuous pictures and ubiquitous plastic plants scattered throughout. Everywhere however the bestial breaks through. The plant pots are slashed by unseen claws, the toys in the kids play area have grown cysts, and talons break through the crocs that house the patients' feet. The environment itself becomes a manifestation of the endless attempt, and failure, of those suffering PCOS to contain the "wolf" within.
In describing what constitutes an "impure" monster within the genre of horror Noel Carroll describes a creature "unnatural relative to a culture's conceptual scheme of nature. They do not fit the scheme; they violate it." Mendick's haunting work exposes the realities of feeling oneself a "violation". This is an essay on otherness, deeply personal and yet universally applicable in addressing how it feels not to fit within a format society dictates as normal.
Maria Ekback , Klaas Wijma & Eva Benzein (2009) "It Is Always on My Mind": Women's Experiences of Their Bodies When Living With Hirsutism, Health Care for Women International, 30:5, 358-372, DOI: 10.1080/07399330902785133
Noel Carroll, The Nature of Horror: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Autumn, 1987), p. 56 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics