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.
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.