Anne Loxley, The Charisma of Schizophrenia, excerpt from essay in For Matthew and Others – Journeys with Schizophrenia, exhibition catalogue, group exhibition at Campbelltown Arts Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery & Lewers Bequest, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, 2006.

Elizabeth Day’s Everything is Connected to Everything Else. Work for Uncle Frank and others who fell into the Chasm of Fear in History’s Black Void (2006) is an exploration of the shame, fear and silence around the institutionalisation of family members. Knitting and wool craft, one of Day’s favourite mediums, is especially apposite in a work about a family in which there are “three generations of knitters”. A white baby’s wool web and a swarm of black woollen spiders are a threatening presence. The disquiet is amplified by such garments as the white baby jumper with a black wool “stain”.

In this sculptural context of fear and disturbance, Day offers two iMovie videos. A text piece documents various family members’ responses to the artist’s questions about Uncle Frank – all uneasy refusals to disclose.

The second movie is a documentary of similar skeletons in the family closets of the artist’s friends. Unlike her family, her close friends are willing to share their painful, vivid stories. Day finds the familial silence problematic. “When I asked my eighty-year old mother, she said ‘my life’s been happy since then’. I don’t want to make Mum’s life difficult but I meet Franks all the time”. Day sees her fifteen years as a visual arts worker within the jail system as a direct response to the loss of her uncle: “I work in a prison so I’ll neutralise this memory for myself”. [Elizabeth Day, conversation with the author, 7 June 2006.]

Documentation of Elizabeth Day’s work in this exhibition here.

The full essay can be downloaded here: