Who is the ‘old Sarah’ anyway…?
We all have an effective idea of the self, we know ‘who we are’… or at least think we do. At the very least we understand that we own an individual identity.
The personal identity is complex as some aspects are permanent whilst others are subject to change.
My current practice has evolved into an amalgamation of identity, self, emotion and the communication of such issues through the use of screen-printing and photography. I’m fascinated with the idea of ‘the self’ and its many layers and how the inner landscapes of the brain relates to the outside persona the world sees
Is it our brain that determines who we are…?
Or do our experiences and views that we acquire during life shape us..?
Is there a part of the brain that houses the ‘self’?
The stimulus for my work has been the many brain scans, EEG recordings and other medical records that I have gathered over the years. After being diagnosed with Epilepsy, I underwent numerous tests which enabled me to see my brain both functioning and malfunctioning.
One of these was the ‘amytal test’, a test in which first one then the other cerebral hemisphere is temporarily anaesthetised. It is used to establish which cerebral functions are localized to which hemisphere. During this experience I had a realisation that actually it was my brain that held the key to ‘who I am’ and what I know. As Paul Broks quite rightly said:
‘The harder one stares into the machinery of the brain, the starker the realisation that there is no one in there. There is no inner sanctum of the self. Neural networks have a life and logic of their own. There is no one running the show. The ‘self’ is a shadow puppet shaped by the firings of a hundred billion brain cells.’
Finally in 2008 I had a temporal lobectomy in the hope to be able to cure the seizures; however the recovery wasn’t quite as simple as I thought as it led to me questioning who I actually was. In having a part of my brain removed, had I somehow lost a part of me…?
I’m interested in the fragility of the mind and how brain damage can have devastating effects on a person’s identity; whether it be physical or psychological.
Many of my images are digitally manipulated and explored through a range of techniques allowing me to question the layers of the ‘self’.
I have been influenced by artists such as Susan Aldworth and Gus Cummins. I have had the opportunity to work alongside professionals such as Dr. John Moriarty, a neuropsychologist at Kings College Hospital. I have also been able to watch the research MRI scans of Sara Di Simoni a PhD student at Kings This has all helped me gain a better understanding of how each of the components of the brain contribute to who we are. I’m currently actively involved with the ‘Healing Art’s’ group at the Maudsley Hospital and have connections with the Neurosupport Centre in Liverpool. I have made use of all of this information in my research methods.
Through working with the images I have been able to gain control and a better understanding of the physical brain and sense of self. Identity is always going to be a controversial topic; nevertheless we all possess one that holds the key to our individual life stories.