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I have had two major surgeries in the last decade, I have had my internal organs touched by strangers, I have been cut, lacerated, taken apart, and rearranged. A central scar marks this history, but it hides lost hours, days, and weeks spent in pain. As I walk outside, nothing about me appears out of the ordinary. My body throbs with pain but no one else can see, the agony is invisible. 


As I study my scar, left imprinted on my exterior, I look again at these images of my internal organs. CT scans, like other medical imagery, are unexplainable to those without a trained eye. I feel estranged from my body when I see these scans, unable to connect them, with me.


With a sense of embodied violence, this scar came to represent the gesture of splitting apart myself, one half left in the kingdom of the sick at all times. Now when I enter a medical institution, regularly being checked over again and again, mentally, the scar reopens. I am forced to remember every prior visit, every interaction that led me to this moment. I am prodded and poked, doctors trace the line and ask, what is this from? I am split apart again and again, ad infinitum.


To split is to take apart, to sever a connection, a failure to reconcile. The photo featured above is from my family archive. It represents a moment of violence, an attempt to destroy a relationship between my father and his wife, my mother. My father tore apart this photo in an episode of fury but with futile results. Lost only are the legs of his family, the top half remaining intact, and in reality, he too never walked away from the marriage. My parents stayed together, unhappily, until the end of their lives. As my father once attempted to take apart his relationship through a performative gesture, I have done so too. This repeated gesture has followed me through hospital corridors and surgery rooms. The rip now permanently embossed on this stomach of mine. 


Now, in order to re-establish autonomy after the splitting apart of my body, I have re-appropriated the familial gesture taking its historical weight into my present, forming part of my healing praxis. I borrowed from my father this ripping gesture, transposing this symbolism onto myself. Repeatedly ripping apart my images, through the centre of my scar, following the surgeon’s own gesture as he cut me open. The performative gesture then becomes a ritual of indexicality that ties together traumas, through a form of communication which is enacted decades apart. From a symbol of medical history, a record of a missing organ, to a statement of autonomy, retrieved and reclaimed as a gesture of my own. 


Ripping as violation, as harm, as cruelty, remade here as restoration, survival, perseverance. 

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