This is part of an installation at the British Museum. It’s Cradle to Grave by Pharmacopoeia. The work shows a lifetime’s supply of prescribed drugs, using composites to create drug narratives for one man and one woman. The work excludes over-the-counter and recreational drugs such as panadol, vitamins and ecstasy, but still runs to 14,000 drugs knitted together and displayed in a mesh that runs for 14 metres. Of course, the composites are derived from the developed world and its focus is on our biomedical approach to health.
The woman’s drug story takes us through her vaccinations, pregnancies, miscarriage, hormone replacement therapy, chemotherapy, arthritis, a hip replacements, diabetes and a range of life’s random infections and illnesses.
I saw this piece in 2011 and spent a long time wandering back and forth along it and indeed the criticism levelled by one critic that the piece is a distraction from the rest of the room is a fair one in my case – I don’t remember anything else that was around it. It may be that I did not take everything away from the exhibition that I should have/could have done, but this installation haunts me.
It is the mister’s birthday today. He is 49. I know that age is just a number and 50 is the new 30 and life begins and so on. But bodies. They are robust, tangible proof of our existence, as fragile as our thoughts.