In Physician, artist Jason Maling undertakes private consultations with gallery visitors, offering poetic treatments for contemporary anxieties associated with visiting galleries and museums. Maling describes maladies such as “Metaphobia” and “Generalised Indifference Disorder” as becoming increasingly more familiar to art patrons the world over. As a refurbished international art institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art has recognised the need to provide onsite services to address these anxieties, ranging from mild conceptual perturbation to severe relational deficiency. In an intimate one-on-one exchange with the artist, MCA visitors are invited to be the first to participate in this trial program and are offered a series of pneumatic rituals designed to activate belief receptors in the body, clearing unwanted metaphoric deposits and restoring full socio-poetic function.
So is this the first time ever that you are performing Physician?
Yes this is the first time I have done Physician, however I have been working in the field of meta therapy for several years now. Physician is a culmination of many small strands of theory woven into a thick anchor rope of poetic restraint.
Where do your sessions take place in the Museum and how long does each one last?
My sessions begin in the first aid room located in the basement of the MCA. Here I introduce my clients to the tools and guide them through a process of informal self realization. Depending on the individual’s needs and their commitment to recovery this process can culminate in a public ritual within the gallery space. I must stress that the nature of this ritual varies. It is constructed by the client and often involves acts of contained violence, poetic abandon and deep breathing. The sessions generally last between half an hour to 45 minutes, stubborn deposits may take longer to clear.
Do you have any medical or therapy training? Or do you just make things up as you go along? Like the maladies you diagnose (Metaphobia, etc), did you make these up? And do your “clients” get a prescription following their consultation?
Medical training in this context is not necessary, what is required is delicate balance of empathy, geometry and a good clothes brush. The maladies I treat are not made up, they aren’t widely known and therein lies the danger – people go undiagnosed for years. I make up for lost time.
Where did the idea stem from?
I have been interested in the parallels between the doctor/patient, museum/patron relationship for some time. Both require a transaction of belief for illness or art to develop into meaning.
And why all the blue felt tools and armbands? Is it because blue is a soothing colour and felt is soft and protective?
It is not actually felt it is Baise, which is what goes on billiard tables. Small Scottish maidens spend hours underwater back-combing the woven wool with thistles to achieve it’s soft and even finish.
The blue is indeed lovely and it makes everybody feel good. However an old art school painting tutor of mine used to warn us against using too much blue because of its seductive qualities. He said: “If everybody loves blue, how will you know if you’ve made a bad painting?”
Yes I like armbands and colour coordination.
Do you play music during your sessions?
Certainly not. I have been subjected to too much whale mating music during massages for a lifetime.
Generally speaking, what sort of music do you listen to?
Do you often go to the doctor or a therapist?
A short time ago I resolved to do something about a persistent region of irritation in one of my eyes. As is the way in our modern medical system, I first visited my local GP who relieved me of an hour and a half of my time, most of which was spent in a waiting room, in exchange for that magical letter of referral that we all must have if we are to ascend to the next level of professional health care. My GP had suitably motivated me with alarmist fantasies of malignant growths and the possibility of glasses. So in a mild state of anxiety I made my appointment and visited the appropriate consulting rooms a couple of weeks later.
Now, I have only recently discovered this but have often wondered about it. The specialist to whom I was referred titled himself MR such and such, not DR or Professor but regular old MR. I have been struck by this before and it frankly does not fill one with confidence before lying semi naked on an examination table. I want a very important sounding name preferably with all those abbreviation letters that come after it, meaning the specialist is a member of many important secret organisations that only accept the truly awesome and supremely skilled. A friend recently told me you go back to becoming a MR after you have ascended beyond the other titles. This turned out to be untrue as I asked another friend who is actually a doctor and she said it is what Surgeons use, If you are a Surgeon you are able to use the term MR which within the lexicon of medical titles is apparently very cool.
So here I am in an unfamiliar waiting room looking around and wondering what is wrong with everybody else, which is what people do in medical waiting rooms even if it looks like they are reading magazines. Anyway my name was called just as I was beginning to worry about having put enough change in my car’s parking meter. This was a little more stress on top of the anxiety caused by memories of the last time I visited an eye doctor, back when I was a teenager and a squash ball got stuck in my eye socket. The nurse ushered me into a small room and said she was going to prep me for my audience with the physician. I was not aware that I needed prepping and she explained that I would have to have a rudimentary pressure and vision test. My chin was then manouvered towards that creepy head brace thing with the screws and clamps and I obediently locked myself in and received my prepping.
Now the eyes are one of the parts of the body that we just don’t want to think about too much, they do an essential job and when anything comes near them we generally get out of the way fast. We also have natural things called eyelids that help us with this. Those little metal clamp things that hold ones eyelids open are very unnatural. It was at this point that I remembered being told on the phone when making my appointment that I may have trouble driving afterwards as my eyes would need to be artificially dilated. Whoops, too late. Back to the waiting room I was sent, to await my higher summons where I proceeded to endure one of the strangest optical experiences of my life.
When your eyes are chemically dilated you can forget trying to see anything in focus within 3 meters of you, the closer the object the blurrier it is. Oh and bright light is vey painful. Now I understood why the other people in the changing room only seemed to be reading their magazines. I got absolutely nowhere with my copy of Time Magazine and then remembered my car and the parking meter. I thought I would just dash down and top up the meter because who knew how long this was all going to take.
The waiting rooms were on the 5th floor and there was no available lift. Stairs are designed for the fully vision enabled. So what should have been a high-speed trip of three minutes turned into an endurance nightmare of groping and shuffling. I won’t even begin to explain the comedy of trying to put small change through a tiny slot. So about fifteen minutes later I am back in the waiting room feeling very freaked out when my name is again called this time by what appeared to be a man. He mumbled his name and ushered me into a new room with more of those evil head devices. I, like most people, have a fair amount of respect for doctors. They had to do heaps of study to get where they are and they have to listen to people whinge at them all day. But every now and again you strike a doctor or MR, who is either having a really bad day or is quite simply an idiot. It isn’t much to ask that a strung out, half blind patient who has already supplied an explanatory letter and been submitted to a bunch of tests could possibly be treated with a little warmth and reassurance as his head is clamped and eyelids immobilized. This guy was almost monosyllabic, he didn’t even ask me what the problem was he just said sit there, look left, look up, no not that way. But what about the tumour in my eye, how it hurts at night and the squash ball thing. Don’t you want my history, my story, my context? Clearly not. Forget bedside manner this guy had no manners.
As my ire was steadily rising he abruptly announced that I had something in the corner of my eye. “Hold still while I fetch my tweezers” (possibly an eye doctor head clamp joke). After a period of poking he held up the tweezers and said “You have been living with a tiny piece of metalic glitter attached to your eyeball, I have removed it but of course, you can’t see it”
Do you people watch a lot?
Don’t we all?
Posted by Kelly Stone
Physician runs 5 – 18 May 2012. Register on the day at the MCA information desk for all appointments.