I’m running late this week - tossed and thrown by the eccentricity of the Easter weekend and the effort to return to normality. In this spirit this post is about why I wanted to include drawing history as part of Diabetes: Year One.
The section covers three pages [fig: 1-3], but takes us from the Egyptians to the present. The pages are a mix of morphing through discoveries and misconceptions, and one-pages to arrest the continuum and consider firstly the impact of insulin, and then the potential for the future.
History is not infallible (I know I’m married to a history teacher), but it helps to provide a context, a way of re-rooting after the shock of disease. The first page [fig.1] may rush through history, but on its way it acknowledges both the horror and the humour: the impact of neuropathy, the grotesque images of melting flesh that accompanied early understandings; and the dark humour of the term “pissing evil” as diabetes was known for a time (Oh, FYI my phone is still shocked, insisting it should be ‘pudding evil’, for which I have no words #languagematters). On the way the page notes the medical milestones and stumbling blocks, before the importance of the pancreas came to be understood (and yes, it is a pancreas!). But this historical helter-skelter is also part of me coming to understand the science and the medicine - finding the human touches in the experience of Diabetes, and coming to see it in terms of more than myself, understanding the social presence of disease.
As I’ve mentioned drawing is discovery, and in celebrating the invention and inventors of insulin, which is literally keeping me alive, I found the image of the playing card [fig.2]. The image is an Ace - a card that dances with duality as it is both high and low. There is tension in any reflected image, and though they are joined through the pattern of testing strip foil in their waistcoats, I emphasise Banting and Best's own acrimony through the red outline; but also touch on the issue of being beholden to a drug for life, and in turn the issue of access in private healthcare systems, which fortunately is not something I have to deal with, but something I am very aware of:
“… the present struggles to contain the conflict of past & future. To measure and judge rationales and vested interests.”
Through drawing the past I again find myself reflecting on the place of disease in society, and as a result on my own place. Leading me to…
… The Diaborg [fig.3]. I’ve considered what this image meant to me in terms of my relations to the body in other posts, so for this post I’ll just note a couple of things. Mainly that the pose is an Homage to the Rodin’s the Thinker (though with added bathos and cluelessness), and that the image is uses my pencil drawing that inspired the final cover image. In other words - the image is about figuring it out, and the role drawing and art has in doing that.
Elements of the Diaborg point to the future, and represent the present, but it serves as a reflection on the past, and on how the past shapes our ability to define ourselves for the future. To ignore the past would take away the grounding of any discovery; so while this section is relatively short, I knew I had to include it, to picture myself in my “new narrative”, to pin down the overwhelming.