Carcinoma le deuil impossible by Sonia Baez-Hernandez
My artistic project was interdisciplinary. The project "Carcinoma le deuil impossible" has four stages: first I created installations and performances, Tram-Body (2001) and On the Flesh (2013). This was an interdisciplinary project integrating the arts, philosophy, art history, feminism, journals, poetry as response to my experience of breast cancer to reveal the impact of health disparities, lack of access to prevention, and treatment to the body. https://www.knightfoundation.org/articles/art-that-faces-off-with-illness
The first performance was on the aesthetic and embodiment. In contrast, the performance, On the Flesh, voluntarily shared with the audience remarking my body with Mandi. The tattoo expand the surface of my body while keeping traces of the scars. For more details, click the link https://www.arts.gov/50th/stories/sonia-baez-hernandez
In the third stage I began to document my treatment experience and departure of my family (2001). Three year later, I began to interview breast cancer patients and caregivers to narrate their journey. The documentary reveals the impact of the lack of access to health care, support, knowledge, and bring into dialogue health as a human right. This project demanded that I work in collaboration with Jean Rene Rinvil, Diego Perez and Aixa Baez. It was an independent documentary.
I started writing about the process to rethink artistic production and account for embodiment. I published poems and articles. My most recent publications include an article in the edited volume, “Territories of the Breast: A Woman’s Cancer Journey, A Call for Human Rights” in Creative Arts in Research for Community and Cultural Change, (2011), and an article in a peer reviewed academic journal “Breast Cancer: A New Aesthetic of the Subject” in Feminist Formations (formerly The National Women’s Studies Association Journal, 2009).
My approach was not to work in a single medium. I explored the experience of breast cancer from an interdisciplinary perspective. Integrating the arts (installations, performances arts, poetry, and documentary), philosophy, feminism, journals, sociology, human rights, history… to understand subjectivity and health disparities in our society. I developed work inspired by my experience and influenced by the voices of other women from different socio-economic backgrounds, writing journals, creating art, and engaged inresearch in the field and social science and medicine. The nature of such a large project forced me to evaluate collaboration with other artists, to finish the documentary, Territories of the Breast (2001-2006) and music composers for the two performance arts (2001 and 2013).
My scope aims to raise critical consciousness of the impact of health disparities, on minorities and poor women. For me arts allow me to cultivate a social imagination and social transformation in the following areas: health disparities, the social construction of gender, the impact of systemic practice of exclusion to healthcare access and the impact of high mortality rate experienced by communities of color and the poor. The artworks allow people to understand social injustice and the need to engage in social activism.
The impact of the project was centered on the political economy of healthcare and the policies of exclusion. It forces one to see illness in the context of society. The works interrogate health as a human rights, the social construction of gender, identity, ideal beauty to face the newness of the body with a new sense of aesthetic. The outcome of the project was to educate minority communities on the impact of cancer, and to expand the dialogue with the arts, exhibitions and presentation, screening in communities, universities, and school of medicines to change subjectivity, policies, and institutional practices.