One Single Wish follows on from my recent work on death and grieving. It’s a site-specific installation composed of hundreds of handcrafted pom poms. These pom poms were crafted in response to my partner’s illness and death. The bright colours and silliness of these quickly wound creations stood in stark contrast to the measured clinical world that surrounded us. After my partner died, communal crafting became a way for me to connect with other people’s experience of grief. I became interested in the ways loss can be externalised and how this act can be used to disrupt the silence that shrouds taboo topics like death and dying. At the centre of my art practice is an intense curiosity in how making can be used to process traumatic events, particularly in those instances when we don’t have the words to wrap around the experience.
Each pom pom for this work is made out of nylon knitting ribbon and attached to a thin bamboo skewer. The skewers are of differing lengths with the tallest standing at 50cms, and the shortest hovering just 5cms off the ground. When viewed individually each stem echoes a dandelion seed head; a plant steeped in Australian folklore and said to grant wishes. The idea behind One Single Wish can be traced to my own personal experience with the absurd and fickle nature of wishing. In the midst of Steve’s first round of treatment I wished out loud that there would be a parking spot right out the front of the radiologists. There was. The granting of this banal wish became a source of dark amusement for us as we balanced treatment with palliative care, whilst also navigating the complexities of living together. The work asks, what if we all had One Single Wish but never knew when it would be granted, so it was likely to wished away on a thing that didn’t matter.
The pom poms for One Single Wish are installed on and around a single bed frame. The bed is a powerful symbol, linked with private spaces, bodies and dreaming. One Single Wish draws on this history, and also references the bed as the place of birth and death. It touches on how and where we die, and the ways death and dying have been institutionalized in contemporary Australian society. From this perspective, One Single Wish brings the taboo topic of death and dying into a very public space. It also touches on the discrepancy between how many people want to die at home (70%), and how many people do (14%). The work is deeply personal and draws on my own experience of caring for someone who is dying, and the challenges of caring for them in the home. One Single Wish is presented in shades of pink and purple, and has a glowing aura of prettiness about it. This work resists the idea of illness and death as a battleground cloaked in darkness and playfully suggests that death can be talked about in many different ways.