Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Dis-ease

Oct 13, 2021 - Matthew Cronin

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, and stories of illness dominated the news, I became fascinated with the etymology of disease. Disease comes from dis, meaning “the contrary of,” and the ease, from the French aise. Its plural, les aiese, refers to a general sense of comfort. Before its use in relation to physical or psychological wellbeing, disease referred to being uncomfortable.[1] In English the word comfort comes from the French confort, which initially referred to moral or psychological comfort. At one time feeling well was associated with a moral meaning. During the eighteenth century it acquired its current meaning which implicated material and technological impact on physical “well-being”[2]
Disruption of comfort has been a central theme of these pictures since their earliest incarnations. As quarantines and lockdowns pushed people into their homes for weeks at time, I thought about the Todd Hayes film, Safe. It follows Carol White, portrayed by Julianne Moore, as she develops an increasingly severe environmental allergy. Coming to believe that she suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Carol is driven into isolation. First into her home, then into a single room, and ultimately retreating to a porcelain chamber in the New Mexico desert; all the while growing more mentally and emotionally isolated. What struck me most about the film was the unsettling way in which something unseen can completely upset the sense of comfort provided by the home.
In Boredom and Bedroom: The Suppression of the Habitual, Georges Teyssot asks the question, “Are there diseases or maladies that belong particularly to houses and apartments”? It is a question that is central to the film as well as my Dwelling pictures. If the places we live could become diseased, it can be divided into two categories; diseases of time and diseases of space. Temporal (anxiety, nostalgia, melancholy, boredom) and spatial (claustrophobia, homesickness, and uncanniness) disturbances are prevalent throughout my pictures. Sometimes these disruptions are immediately visible. Other times they reveal themselves slowly, only on closer inspection. Once noticed, whatever sense of comfort and familiarity initially felt fades away, leaving feelings of longing and isolation in its wake.
 
 
[1] Teyssot, Georges, and Catherine Seavitt. “Boredom and Bedroom: The Suppression of the Habitual.” Assemblage, no. 30, 1996, pp. 45–61
[2] [2] Teyssot, Georges, and Catherine Seavitt. “Boredom and Bedroom: The Suppression of the Habitual.” Assemblage, no. 30, 1996, pp. 45–61