Cancer. Those two little syllables could make me shiver, see sickness, bald-headedness and death. I was one month past my twentieth birthday and I had cancer… (BALL, 2003)
Fun with Cancer Patients features documentation of Actions that have already happened – one-off events meant to provide a fantastical solution to a recognisable problem or issue facing current patients. The distance between the Actions and the exhibition pieces we created asks viewers to examine their own critical distance from the word cancer – or if they have had the privilege of having any distance at all. Instead of asking for your sympathy, or pity, Fun with Cancer Patients asks for your intellectual and critical engagement around cancer, which may eventually help create a safer environment for cancer patients to thrive as thinking/feeling members of society.
There is much we can learn from the insight of the patient participants featured in Fun with Cancer Patients, if we engage in what they have to teach us without demanding they tell a story with a happy or inspiring ending. It’s not a cancer patient’s job to inspire – having cancer is enough of a full time job. But it’s our job to listen to what they have to say and how they feel, even when those words and feelings may be inconvenient or difficult. And these words and feelings often are inconvenient, and difficult, as well as being real, funny, profound, profane, mundane, political, ridiculous, hilarious, frightening and thrilling… The fact they can be all of these things about cancer, well, that is inspiring indeed.
Fun with Cancer Patients is a project dedicated to raising the intellectual understanding of the cancer experience without turning cancer into something inspiring, sweet or sombre. By looking at the reality of cancer – the smells, the annoyances, the pleasures, the absurdities – Fun with Cancer Patients explores the psychosocial aspects of cancer and provides patient participants an opportunity to reflect on their unique experiences and wisdom.
Facilitated and realised by performer Brian Lobel, the process of Fun with Cancer Patients is quite simple: Brian works with a specific individual or group of patient participants and discussed what they want or need – in relation to their illness – and then works with them to create an extravagant intervention to address this want/need.
Interventions have included pop-up kitchens, far-flung car trips, hacked infusion machines, and much much more, and have provided opportunities for patient participants and our medical advisory team to speak and reflect on issues such as post-treatment anxiety, the language of illness, the development/loss of friendships, hairloss, decrease/increase of appetite, and beyond.
Fun with Cancer Patients was a major collaboration between Fierce Festival and Birmingham Teenage Cancer Trust, which resulted in both a publication and installation at macBirmingham, in Autumn 2013. The exhibition will tour and grow, with new patient participants and new actions at each site. For more information on how you can bring Fun with Cancer Patients to you, please see the Contact page.
Please select an image below to find out more about each individual work: