P. Staff, Weed Killer, 2017
P. Staff’s single-channel video work Weed Killer is inspired by the artist-writer Catherine Lord´s memoir The Summer of Her Baldness (2004), a moving account of her experience with cancer. At the centre of Staff’s video is a monologue, adapted from Lord’s book, in which actress Debra Soshoux delivers a reflection on the devastating effects of chemotherapy. At one point, the chemotherapy drugs are described as like ‘mainlining weed killer’. The film examines the thin line between the poisonous and the curative with harrowing effect, and we are forced to consider the paradox of ingesting a deeply toxic substance in order to stay alive. Sequences of testimony, performed by Soshoux, are interspersed with high-definition thermal imaging camera shots of performing bodies. The variable temperatures, represented in reds, oranges and yellows, against cold dark blue backgrounds create a topography of the effects of the treatment and help visualize the symptoms being described; a physical mapping of anguish, hope and endurance. Towards the end of the film, artist Jamie Crew delivers a lip-synched performance of To Be in Love (1999) by Masters at Work. The song speaks of thwarted love as a kind of intoxicating illness. Crewe’s performance is a show of impassioned love and suffering offered to the bar’s patrons who appear disinterested. This is perhaps a call back to an earlier elucidation of ‘compassion fatigue’, a secondary social effect of illness, whereby well-meaning friends tire of their supporting roles, leading to a greater sense of isolation for those cast out of the contemporary paradigm of wellness as their social support also erodes.
|Medium||Single-channel HD video, colour, sound|
|Duration||16 minutes 49 seconds|
|Edition||of 5 + 2 APs|