Handbag Dissection

The handbag is a common object, an object that conveniently allows us to carry around purses, phones, keys and a number of daily necessities. However, for many women with dementia it becomes so much more than this – becoming a small world for them to cling to when their own world begins to fall apart. It becomes the last symbol they have of independence, privacy and identity, allowing them a small sense of control and ownership as their own bodies and minds become subject to care and dependence.

I wanted to explore how I could use the symbol of a handbag to investigate identity, and so decided to tear a handbag apart, considering how this compared to the development of dementia.

I separated  each part of the bag until I had a series of pieces, these I then laid out onto a piece of paper.
Doing this allowed me to investigate the object as a whole, exploring it as an object – and as a series of parts.
I found it an interesting exercise, as each part began to unravel, it’s use as a bag became less and less possible but in unravelling it I had more of an insight into how it was held together when it was functional.
I began to consider how much of the bag I could take away until its identity became a mystery and found that there were some elements of the bag that gave away more information than others, these parts I grouped together and recorded through drawing.
Dementia takes away bit by bit the memories that make up who you are, it calls into question your identity and wipes away your own life from your own mind. This exercise has allowed me to begin to consider how much of something can be taken away before it becomes unrecognisable. It is just a brief start, barely scratching the surface but I intend to process and explore this idea further, as well as investigating the importance of the symbolic nature, and of the functional nature of the handbag to a woman with dementia.

Images of dissecting bag #2


Photographer Todd McLellen used similar ideas in his photography works ‘Disassembly series’, these images explore the dis assemblage of everyday objects.Through his photographs, McLellen offers us a new perspective and view on objects that are often overlooked. He highlights the complexity and intricate details of practical objects often valued solely for for their function.

Deconstructed Objects by Todd McLellanSmartphone, 2007; BlackBerry by Todd McLellan via this is colossal #Photography #Disassembly #Todd_McClellanTODD MCLELLAN MOTION/STILLS INC - • Things Come ApartIn his latest series UK-based photographer Todd McLellan takes old technology

I aim to explore these kinds of ideas through my own practise, exploring the narrative that an everyday object such as a handbag can actually offer us when investigated.


Starting the project

The theme that we were all given as a fine art group was ‘Outside/Inside’, from this starting point I began to consider various subjects that I could explore. I began to consider the idea of ‘identity’ but exploring when an individuals internal sense of identity begins to change (as a result of a condition such as dementia), yet physically and externally they remain disaffected. As I began to look into this idea of identity I came across an interesting article entitled ‘Women with dementia and their handbags: Negotiating identity, privacy and ‘home’ through material culture’ written by Christina Buse and Julia Twigg, this really fascinated me and I intend to respond to the ideas present in this article. Investigating how to visualise ‘the materialisation of an interior breakdown’, exploring the growth in the importance of handbags, shoes, clothing and other objects when an individual begins to lose their privacy, memories and internal sense of self.

Here are few sketches that I did to get started.

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Alongside my practical work there is obviously a need for contextualization – both through exploring practitioners and theories linked with the work I am creating. As well as my blog I will be keeping a hand written journal with updates and critiques of what I am doing. I will also be developing a pinterest board with images from artists that I am looking at. The pinterest board address is: http://www.pinterest.com/beccadavies31/insideoutside/

Starting up my blog

Sadly to admit that in the 21st century this is the first time I’ve ever created a blog. I’m feeling quite out of touch with technology at the moment!!
Its my 4th week studying Fine Art in Cardiff Metropolitan University (at least I think its my fourth week, its all gone past really quickly and its amazing how much has changed in such a short space of time), but  I can honestly say that going to university has been one of the best decisions I have made. I have met so many interesting people, learnt so much already and feel my brain being stretched in so many new directions.
As part of our studies, we have all been asked to keep a blog alongside our briefs, lectures and projects – just keeping up to date with how the different areas of studies are developing  – documenting what I am doing, contextualising and supporting the work I create and tracking my response to what I am learning in lectures and research. A reflective journal, but whilst saving the trees!
So this is it really, my blog beginnings, lets give it a go.