Tell me, how do I feel? 


Tell me, how do I feel? is a dual-screen moving image work focusing on how people are positioned as unreliable narrators and inaccurate witnesses of their own bodies, installed in the library of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons for Glasgow International 2020. Grounded in my own experience of ill health and hospitalisation and informed by conversations with others, the work combines archival imagery with new footage and excerpts of medical television dramas, narrated by a voiceover formed from exchanges, quotes, and extracts of found texts. Generating a collage of material, the work begins to create a horizontal hierarchy of information and foregrounds testimony and storytelling as an attempt to dismantle the power dynamics inherent in medical practice. Exhibited alongside the new work will be items from the College’s collection of historical medical instruments and documents.


The exhibition will run from 14 April – 10 May 2020 and is accompanied by a reading group on Saturday 2 May and a contextual screening on Thursday 7 May.


This body of research stems from my most recent film, Body of Water, informed and inspired by the multitude of impassioned responses I received since exhibiting it.


The objective of this new work is to interrogate the construction of medical knowledges and practices with the intention to rewrite histories of patient’s (ill)health by harnessing testimony and storytelling as a method to do so.



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Image: diagram of a pelvic examination from Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1979

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Research


My research is situated in the following themes: representation of women as unreliable narrators and inaccurate witnesses; embodiment of historical, political and cultural narratives in spaces and on bodies; objectification of women's’ bodies in medical institutions.


I look to harness the representation of the ‘misbehaving’ body as an unreliable narrator and inaccurate witness, bringing this subjectivity into dialogue with the dominance of objectivity in medical discourse and diagnostic narratives. I want to mobilise contradiction and nuance, first-hand experience and testimony as tools to resist essentialization and intervene into objectivity. I want to create space for patients' voices, bringing to the fore a multitude of unseen narratives and bodies.


Research for the work is happening in parallel: ongoing informal conversations with people to gather testimony, stories, and shared references and experiences; delving into the back catalogue of medical journals and physicians notebooks held at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow; exploring the rare materials archive at the the Wellcome Collection; and (slightly obsessively) consuming reruns of TV medical dramas.


This material will come together to form the body of the film, visually and audibly. Utilising techniques and tropes of documentary to look back at past failures and problematise contemporary practices and depictions, the work will engage with a multitude of representations, manipulations and incarnations of patient's as unreliable witnesses of their own bodies and experiences, seeking to rewrite histories 'from the ground up'.

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Intended outcome


The intended outcome of this research will be a new moving image work that draws together patient's voices with a variety of imagery, materials and spaces that embody the prevailing presumption of the neutral ‘healthy’ body as white, straight and cisgendered male.


The work will offer up ethical and political (and undoubtedly contradictory) interpretations of 'misbehaving' bodies, and in doing so question whose voice gets to speak, and whose words are heard, as part of the unpicking of this web of stories and histories, ethics and practices.


This layered approach will be throughout the film, both visually and audibly, playing with when sound, voice and visual material align, allowing for both sequential and non-linear timelines to form as the themes and questions build and recur. The intention is to produce a moving image work that does not provide straightforward conclusions, avoiding the reinforcement of a binary that places medicine as a homogeneous entity as ‘bad’ and patients as collective ‘victims’, but an attempt to depict the more complex and nuanced nature of the network of medicine, policy and politics in which people and bodies exist and function.

Image: Christina Yang in TV medical drama Grey's Anatomy

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Image: archive medical text on display at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow

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Development of this project is supported by:


12–26 August 2019: Experimental Film and Artists Moving Image Residency, Cove Park


7 November 2019: Tell me, how do I feel? Screening of works from the LUX and Cinenova collections, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow


This project is supported by Creative Scotland Open Project Fund, Hope Scott Trust, LUX Scotland, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

How to get involved


If the themes of this research and work resonate with you, please get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you.


You can contact me via email: annie.crabtree@gmail.com

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