identity 28-02-2010

a wonderful exhibition at the wellcome collection. 8 rooms about 8 lives (samuel pepys, the groundbreaking transexual april ashley, the artist claude cahun, the scientist francis galton, fiona shaw...) each of them examining the question of who we are from a variety of different perspectives and all of them a revelation in some way (i'd never seen fiona shaw's astonishing performance of the wasteland; i'd never considered what it might be like to be one of a pair of identical twins, born three years apart as a result of ivf). the most moving story was that of clive wearing, the subject of a famous bbc documentay some years ago (sections of which are available to watch on the website below) who believes repeatedly that he has just come round / woken up after 6 or 7 years of amnesia. his diary is an obsessive, repetitive list of entries recording his delight at suddenly getting his memory back, each one separated by several minutes. he has lost many essential abilities and is cared for by his devoted wife, deborah. however, he used to be a gifted musician and choirmaster and when given a keyboard and a baton and a group of singers these skills come flooding back and he can play and conducted exactly as he once did. most movingly - and it was this that made me cry, while standing in front a glass case in a museum to boot - was his continuing and overwhelming love for his wife, so that every time he saw her he felt as if he was seeing her for the first time after a long absence and was filled was joy. 


identity @ the wellcome collection

clive wearing @ the wellcome collection

there is also a very good book accompanying the exhibition from black dog

identity & identification @ black dog