List of Foods That Might Have Killed Him[Series of 5 images printed at 30x45”] original design stationary sheets inkjet printed on paper, list of “harmful foods to avoid” for Polycystic Kidney Disease (transcribed from PKDiet.com), original poetry, 2019
List of Foods That Might Have Killed Him began with an actual list that I used to confront on a daily basis, mounted to the front of my mother’s fridge. It is sourced from the blog called PKDdiet.com, an online resource created by individuals with Polycystic Kidney Disease and Polycystic Liver Disease in order to share practical knowledge about how to manage a healthy lifestyle with these inherited, non-curable diseases. This is an online resource that my mom would refer to on a regular basis in an effort to manage her disease through a conscious diet. Two alphabetical lists of food items are labeled “Enjoy” and “Avoid Harmful Foods”, the latter even lengthier than the former with 529 items. I took interest in this harmful foods list, noting at times its errors, exhaustiveness, and repetition. While intended to provide it’s readers with a sense of control, it ultimately feels overwhelmingly futile. There is a bias present in the list, as the items waver between extreme specificity, and more vague, categorical terms. The contrasts of human effort and error in the list feel indicative of general behaviors surrounding a management of food that is specific to humans. This attention to diet is a disciplinary structure, enforced upon both sick and healthy bodies.
For this piece, I created six different notepad designs using photos I had taken in Hawaii, mimicking a souvenir aesthetic seen in gift shops, hotels, etc., a visual language built for visitors and consumers that I grew up ingesting as an obvious representation of my home. On them, I transcribe the original list, as well as phrases of poetry to supplement narrative about my personal attachment to it’s contents, citing my mother and grandfather. I title the beginning of the list, “List of Foods That Might Have Killed Him”. This irrational list becomes a way for me to rationalize the cause of death of my grandfather, who passed away during my mother’s childhood from the same disease which she later inherited. The work is ultimately comprised of 5 photographs, each of a couple sheets of the notepad paper with combinations of the list and poetry, mounted on a refrigerator, closely photographed, and printed at 40 x 30”. The texture of the fridge in the background of the images brings the list into a viewing space that references the domestic, the mundane, disregarded or unremarkable. I suggest ways in which disease becomes an invisible routine or set of rules in the lives of individuals, and acknowledge a generational relationship to sickness.