Some words by Jan Sopher regarding her artwork ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’
I have attached the image of the metronome box and this is what inspired the work:
Prof. Walker (Newcastle) gave a talk on African people with Parkinson’s disease and showed a short film on how the metronome was used as a cue to help these suffers to move more easily. It was like magic to me.
I had long been a fan of the surrealist Joseph Cornell, and his intriguing boxes.
The watch and leaves referred to the shortness of time, the window is a little hope for the future and the small bottle a reference to the drugs, which are only partially effective when used with the spoon with holes in. These items then seemed to have a strong connection to Alice in Wonderland also a surreal and dream related book. On visiting MoMA I discovered yet another link to the work by Man Ray, a Metronome (in fact the exact same model) this work also had an eye drawing attached. So I felt these things all were saying the same message: how strange this disease we share and how surreal it is.
I was lucky enough to attend a creative writing workshop at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle run by Sue Spencer and Sheree Mack exploring the BrainBox exhibition that Jan Sopher had curated for the Lit and Phil (see previous post.)
This particular work by Jan inspired me to write a poem which I’ve posted below:
I Fall Forwards (after Curiouser and Curiouser by Jan Sopher)
Feel the weight of the silver sugar spoon
my father gave to me as a gift.
these hands will not stop shaking.
Hear the beat of the mahogany metronome
that sits on the old piano.
in the absence of the pendulum swing of my limbs.
Taste the drugs they dole out like gifts
in days-of-the-week boxes.
I cannot swallow past the lump in my throat.
Smell the decay that settles on my shoulders,
dust gathering as I wait.
grey matter; shrinking away from life.
See the ancient pocket watch stopped inside
a large dome of glass.
from the trees outside my window,
as I fall forwards and the world spins by.
(Copyright Eliot North 2013)
The artwork struck me in many ways, not only because of my experience of Parkinson’s in terms of talking to patients as a GP but also certain elements inside this piece struck a personal note.
A silver sugar spoon just like the one in ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ my father actually gave to me as a gift a few years ago. As a family we always celebrated pancake day the traditional way with sugar and lemon and in the past always used a silver sugar spoon with holes in to shake the sugar over the pancakes. Also the metronome is exactly like the one we used to have on our piano that I remember from my childhood when taking piano lessons and practising at home.
The senses represented by the eye, ear and mouth struck me as well as the surrealist elements to the piece. I am a huge fan of surrealist art and literature… Magritte, Man Ray and Dali as well as Lewis Carroll, particularly Alice in Wonderland of course. I have now explored Joseph Cornell’s work thanks to Jan!
I was trying to capture something of the surreal in the poem, each stanza exploring a sense and trying to capture something of what it might feel like to have Parkinson’s Disease.
Great thanks to Jan Sopher for the image used here and the inspiration.