Medical instruments are often seen as cold and obtrusive. Yet Amy Claire Mills is rethinking this, creating soft sculptures that replicate pieces of medical equipment in the colourful and flashy style that is synonymous with her practice. In transforming clinical objects into absurd play things, she has created sculptures to be touched, cuddled and explored. Mills describes this work as “a love letter to [her] disabled and neurodivergent communities”.
The exhibition’s title, This will only hurt for a second!, references the flippancy that people with a disability often receive within the medical system. “This will only hurt for a second” is a phrase used to calm someone’s fears, but it can also dismiss the longevity of anxiety and pain that accompany disability and chronic illness.
“Softness reminds us that vulnerability, empathy, and compassion are powerful attributes that can empower us and foster a deeper sense of body autonomy.”
In Mills’s experience, “It is never just for a second.” The artist counteracts this by using “softness” as a tool to help viewers feel safe when confronting ableism. She believes that “softness challenges the patriarchal mindset that associates power, strength, and control with dominant forms. Softness reminds us that vulnerability, empathy, and compassion are powerful attributes that can empower us and foster a deeper sense of body autonomy.”
While the Sydney-based artist also works across performance and installation, much of Mills’s practice centres on cultivating and reclaiming intimacy with one’s own body. “When your body has been medicalised, you lose that connection with it; it somehow no longer belongs to just you. There was never a point where I was given a choice about who had access to my body. My body is a chronicle of pain. It heals over time, but the memories are still embedded within my scars.”
The exhibition centres access through its use of tactile design, thoughtful audio descriptions, and an accompanying visual story. As Mills suggests, “It is a remedy for the cold harsh environment of the doctor’s office or the hospital ward.”
This article was originally published in the November/December 2023 print edition of Art Guide Australia.
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