Prosthetic Space 2-Day Exploration

I propose to conduct a small scale exploration of our tactile perception of space. During my stay at BCCA I will explore the place of residency and surrounding area using a pair of simple, hand-made prosthetic limbs. The design of the limbs still needs to be finalised. By doing this I hope to gain an altered, extended experience of objects and their nature. I am interested in the relationship of the body to an object when approached through such artificial tool.

I encourage anyone who is interested to take part in this exploration. I offer to make extra pairs of prosthetic limbs for participants, but I also welcome individual designs and suggestions. Group exploration is highly desirable as it would bring a broader range of sensations and provide a better background for discussion.

I aim to have fun during the residency period. I want to pop balloons with my prosthetic limbs and touch things otherwise untouchable or out of reach.
I would like to conclude my residency with a Prosthetic Feast. All meals at the Prosthetic Feast need to be consumed wearing a pair of prosthetic hands. A natural dialogue/discussion should be part of the feast to reflect upon the exploration and its meaning.

Volunteers are welcome to engage in all parts of the projects.

To follow-up the residency I intend to write a short poetic piece reflecting on the experience.


Alice expresses a desire to explore Blairgowrie. So Kate goes for a wander with her. The first resident they meet knows Kate so they stop for a chat. Alice asks if he would like to kiss her ring and he takes full advantage of this offer by giving the proffered piece of plastic a good suck.


In the Co-op, Kate and Alice - the polystyrene-handed,
faux-leopard-furred twins - buy vegetables for tonight's meal.


At the checkout, Alice pays using Kate's purse. She is asked if she has a Co-op card. Alice has, Kate tells her, but Alice also has difficulty getting said Co-op card out of the purse. Eventually it drops onto the floor.


"I think the difficulty is the gloves," says the assistant.

"I think you might be right," is the reply.

When the story is recounted to me back at the BCCA, I'm not impressed. The problem was obviously the prosthetic limbs. Why mince words?


Tonight is to be a dummy run of tomorrow night's prosthetic feast. We're leaving our right hands functional and only making a prosthetic challenge of our left arm. So right now, when I hand Alice a little book to look at, she turns the pages with the fingers of her right hand and holds them down with the tubular loop of her left.


The book is
The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey. Each exquisite drawing is accompanied by a two-line verse. The first reads:

When they answered the bell on that wild winter night,
There was no-one expected - and no-one in sight.

To be honest we didn't really expect a third resident in May. Alice just sort of happened. But let's turn the pages and see what happens next:

Then they saw something standing on top of an urn
Whose peculiar appearance gave them quite a turn.


Our welcome guest likes the little book, as the BCCA suspected she would, having hung out with Alice on Kate's grassy mound during the MFA degree show in the summer of 2014. I particularly like the book because we're all doubtful guests in our own and other people's homes; in our own and other people's lives. So let's run with that notion, shall we?


It was seemingly deaf to whatever they said,
So at last they stopped screaming and went off to bed.

What happened the next day?

It wrenched off the horn from the new gramophone,
And could not be persuaded to leave it alone.


It betrayed a great liking for peering up flues.
And for peeling the soles of its white canvas shoes.


Every Sunday it brooded and lay on the floor,
Inconveniently close to the drawing room door.


Now and then it would vanish for hours from the scene,
But alas, be discovered inside a tureen.


In the night through the house it would aimlessly creep
In spite of the fact of its being asleep.


It would carry off objects of which it grew fond.
And protect them by dropping them into the pond.


It came seventeen years ago - and to this day.
It has shown no intention of going away.



As you may have gathered from the above, Alice, Kate and I have been joined this Sunday by Claire Briegel. Can she keep away from the BCCA this fortnight of May, 2015? Why should she? She's another most welcome guest.

Just a few more individuals have been invited. Anton turns up from Dundee; Roger and Carmel arrive from Blair. All three are shown to the summerhouse where they are encouraged to make themselves a pair of prosthetic limbs.

I'm already limbed up. This is my left arm, wrapped in a plastic water bottle, my hand crammed into a plastic cup. My skin is already beginning to sweat, which is why there is a wad of cotton wool stuffed into the bottom of the cup. Sorted.


And below is my right. I feel I have earned this prosthetic hand. On my third finger is the business end of the Conveen system. This is a sheath like a condom. Normally, it would have been used by my father, the protruding end of it screwed into a length of tubing leading to a bag. By wearing this at night, my elderly father saves himself from getting up half a dozen times to have a pee. Instead, he relieves the pressure on his bladder at will and the urine is collected in a night bag that rests on the floor by his bedside.


Stretching beyond the Conveen's nozzle is a self-catheterisation device. You remove the long smooth piece of plastic from its blue plastic water-filled sheath and insert the low friction length of plastic through your penis until it enters your bladder. Any liquid in the bladder then runs out of the tube. I had the doubtful pleasure of self-catheterising last year when it was thought that the pooling of stale urine was causing recurrent infections in my urinary tract.

Today, Claire wants to borrow the unopened device. In order to completely empty her own bladder? No, she wants to incorporate the long piece of plastic into her prosthetic limb. She has a bride/groom thing going on between her prosthetic arms but feels she needs a finishing touch. I gladly donate the device to her cause, but then feel that my right hand needs something else. And so I add a latex glove. It has to be said that I'm focussing on retaining a fair amount of flexibility and function for my right hand. After three BCCA residencies in short succession I am running on empty. I could do with eating and drinking at the coming feast, pathetic though that might seem.

Anton has gone for an elaborate right arm prosthetic. He has got a circular plastic disc on the end of a thin stick and that is going to complicate his feasting.


On the chair between Anton and Claire is the other half of the Conveen system. In other words the bag whose usual destiny is to become full of urine. On this occasion it's become full of Carmel's air and the one-way valve is making sure that it stays inflated. The BCCA is proud to preserve Carmel's breath for posterity.

As you can see from the next image, Anton hasn't done himself any favours on the left side either. Effectively he's lengthened his fingers to the point of dysfunction. He is struggling to get one of the Twiglets that Claire brought along because they reminded her of tiny prosthetic limbs in themselves.

This is also a good view of Roger's strange right arm. That set-square emerging from a polystyrene wrap is surely not going to be much use when it comes to the majority of tasks that he will be looking to tackle this evening.


Does his left hand allow an easy cop-out? No, it does not. Its bound with polystyrene and sports a wooden hook. Also well bound up is Carmel's left hand (black) and her right (bubble-wrapped). The tube emerging from the bubble-wrap, ending in a distinctive nozzle, is from the Conveen system. How many of Ian's overnight bags have we requisitioned?


If the outcome of tonight's feast-farce is that Ian has to get up to go to the loo five times in the night, as in pre-Conveen days, risking a fall each time, then this is one son who is going to be in his father's bad books. Sorry, my patient and kind father, but I promise I will make it up to you with consistent care for the whole of the summer.

A word about Kate's right hand. She has been excused prosthetics because she is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and many movements of her wrist in particular are painful just now. Inside the support bandage is an emery board to help support her wrist: a home-made splint that Kate came up with. So there
is a lot of prosthetic going on. I wish I could help her more with her arm. But I can't seem to find a way of doing that. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough. Maybe I'm not thinking outside the box of my own interests.

A word about our drinking. First we all shared a bottle of white wine. Then we shared a bottle of beer whose appearance tricked me into thinking it was a bottle of prosecco. Moving around is difficult. Holding a glass is difficult for some of us. So the usual standards of precision as to what one chooses to drink have gone out the window. When the beer finishes we'll be back to wine. Mad Hatter's tea-party, anyone?


The food is rather special. Carmel has brought along meringues because their fragile shells make them difficult to eat even in normal circumstances. Roger has brought four coconuts and if anybody is going to force a way into them I will be surprised. Claire has brought along scampi tails as well as the Twiglets. I thought she had provided the cabbage that's in the middle of the table, since - as we've seen - the vegetable plays an important symbolic role in her art. But I now realise that was brought by Anton, who also brought the red pepper that's available in slices on one plate, and the passion fruit studded grapefruit that's sliced up on another. Alice has cooked bananas, which have been served up with a chilli dressing. It's all rather lovely. I'm slipping from savoury to sweet and back to savoury again, without any trouble. But what did I actually bring to the table? Nothing. As I said, I'm running on empty. I've already settled for my contribution being retrospective: as tasty a text as I can put together.

Woops! there goes Alice's meringue. The plastic glass that is on the end of her right arm has not provided a solid enough base. Not on this occasion.


To celebrate the destruction and/or consumption of each and every meringue shell, Roger takes it upon himself to open at least one coconut. He is outside the conservatory doing that for so long that I have time to come up with a drawing of the prosthetic feast, complete with verse:

While waiting for coconut, it shamefully ate
All the grapefruit and salad and part of a plate.


What was it that put the Edward Gorey verse and images in my mind in this context? Firstly, it was Alice's proposal, which reminded me of the creature whose basic senses are slightly different to those of the family it drops in on. Secondly, it was Alice herself. Last summer she gave off the impression of having as immutable a sense of self as the creature who visits that well-to-do 19th Century home. In any case, now I'm thinking that all three artists who have dropped in on the BCCA this May - Claire Briegel, Morvern Odling and Alice Maselnikova - have brought something subtly and beguilingly alien along with them, over and above their names.

Roger returns to the room, modestly triumphant. He is nothing if not persistent and logical. And logic - applied persistently - usually comes up with the goods. All those who want it, get coconut milk and a chunk of white coconut flesh to round off the evening. In other words, it's not just the 'artists' who have brought something foreign, exotic and stimulating to the BCCA. Hoorah!

Let us bring this version of the evening to a close with a fragment of video. It was taken by Alice on the BCCA's camera immediately before the memory card filled. It's only 13 seconds long, so even the most time-pressed browser might feel able to commit to it.

But first let me tell you what happens. The camera sweeps from Anton's probing right arm, to my false-bright smiling face - at which time the microphone picks up that Claire is asking me to pass her something - at which point Anton's eye drops to the floor. So that's two of Anton's arms and one eye gone; two legs and one eye to go. Glass half full, I'd say.

Intrigued? Here is the