/ Izabela Jurcewicz / Photo story

Body as a Negative. Sensations of Return

In this work, I return to traumatic memories and experiences that I endured as an inter-organ tumor patient. At nineteen years of age, on New-Year’s Eve, I suffered from extensive internal bleeding. This hemorrhaging led to the discovery that I had a major inter-organ tumor. Unprecedented in Poland, there were no medical case studies nor a proposed course of treatment. Later I learned that my situation was one of 300 cases worldwide, and science had few answers to its cause and how to proceed.
I spent weeks in the hospital, stabilized after the bleeding and awaiting my first surgery. The first procedure lasted nine hours. Being cut open for so long changed my body at a cellular level, leaving signs of stress and anxiety connected to the threat of survival. This surgery lives as a photographic negative in my life, which henceforth produces images, including the ones that form this body of work. Deep somatic memory is called to visibility in this work, externalized through the photographic surface.

Through returning to the memories and replaying them under controlled studio conditions, I aim to transform them on a cellular level, so my body can regain balance. In this act of return, I replace the invasive surgical instrument with my camera as a receptive device to register, merge and enable a ritual of healing. It is this process of emphatic engagement that brings dimensionality to the body and self again, and grows a capacity to join with the suffering of others. From this work I than would meet my Father, supporting him through his own cycle of trauma, as he had cancer from 2016 till his passing in 2019.

In the studio with a soft, steady gaze through the camera’s lens, I become the observer of my physicality, one sensation at a time. It’s an ontological journey where the immediacy and particulars of the subjective dimension of my experience come forward. I re-create the traumatic memories as a patient in the safe, private (or semi-private) space. In setting the stage, I assemble a hospital room and the surgical apparati. On other occasions, I photograph myself triggered by some hospital-referenced objects, which become indexes for the memories, pointing back to experiences from the Western medical treatment. The camera becomes a witness that registers moments of the replay of difficult experiences, on my own terms and under my conditions.

Izabela Jurcewicz’s works have been exhibited in over thirty exhibitions, including such venues as the International Center of Photography, ClampArt, Baxter St CCNY, School of Visual Arts Flatiron Gallery in New York, RISD Museum and Musa Pavilion accompanying exhibition during 59th Venice Biennial. She is a recipient of Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation Award 2021 by International Center of Photography, a laureate of Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents 2020 by Luma Arles & ENSP, COCA Center for Contemporary Artists 2020 finalist and a runner-up in New Delta Review’s Ryan R. Gibbs Photography Contest 2018.