2018, Academic Paper

Discarded Narratives

Maddy Rice

Even when illness has been left behind, the medical waste and discarded treatment tools remain, creating a disposable body and timeline that we as a culture are unsure of how to address. From needles and packaging for diabetic test equipment to inhaler canisters to pill bottles, leftover artifacts of illness preserve a patient’s history, but contribute to global garbage accumulation. There is a robust tradition of using disposable and disposed items in fine art, but so far, medical waste has not crossed far into that tradition. This paper sets works of non-medical and medical waste in direct conversation, as well as analyzes the specific and unique messages communicated by each work of medical art as it relates to the patient experience and history. Through the interplay between stigma and emotional attachment regarding medical trash, artists can challenge negative connotations of long-term illness and treatment, as well as reclaim patient narratives that have been likewise discarded. This paper addresses those stigmas and taboos that exist around the after-artifacts of medical treatment and explores the potential for medical waste as a storytelling tool and representation of the illness experience.

Grand Champion, First Place – Academic Papers

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