Making invisible pain visible through installation art

Published on 18 August 2021

An interview with Mhairi Wild, a Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) MFA Art and Humanities student

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In response to her own experience of embodied pain and personal loss, Mhairi Wild, a Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) MFA Art and Humanities student, has spent her Master’s year researching breath and the phenomenology of illness.  

“While researching lost language, as spoken by children, I found a recitation of a poem entitled ‘This Connection of Everyone with Lungs’ by Juliana Spahr. Given we are in the midst of a global pandemic, the breath has become a universal focus. We have all had to adapt to a different way of being in the world with feelings of loss and associated grief. That led to researching the ontology of breath and phenomenology of illness, using the conscious breath in pain control. Physical and psychological pain have no representative material object in the outside world. My work makes invisible pain, visible.” 

Despite this installation being incredibly personal, Mhairi hopes that given the universality of pain and loss, everyone who views the work will connect with it on some level. 

The installation, which has been created using a variety of materials including paper, porcelain clay, parian slip, beeswax, and thermal paper, has been inspired by a myriad of research projects and philosophical concepts. 

“I found the Life of Breath project headed up by Professor Havi Carel and Professor Jane MacNaughton to be a wonderful resource and my most recent research methodologies are centered around the works of Gaston Bachelard and the anthropologist Tim Ingold.”  

Mhairi who was born in Glasgow and lived in several different locations across the east coast of Scotland, has been active within Dundee’s thriving creative community for several years. 

“I originally studied Interior and Environmental Design at DJCAD. My final year project took the form of a performance so you could say I always had one foot in Fine Art. While studying I took up the post of scenic artist at Dundee Rep then on graduating, I taught at Dundee College, before taking up a teaching post back at DJCAD until 2008. Prior to pursuing my MFA, I had my own practice based at WASPS studios, here in Dundee.” 

After graduating Mhairi is considering returning to study for a practice-based PhD, but in the meantime will be applying for artist residencies and undertaking commissioned work.  

Mhairi Wild sitting at a table typing on an old type writer with a long paper rolling on the floor
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at DJCAD. Having access to and support from the excellent knowledgeable artists, writers, technicians, and theorists on staff has been incredible. I am thrilled to be back in the building, with all its happy memories. Despite all the difficulties caused by Covid restrictions, our class has pulled together and supported each other and I have made new friends with some truly inspiring artists.”

Mhairi Wild, MFA Art and Humanities

Mhairi’s work is featured on this year’s Masters Showcase branding, and you can view her final installation, along with those of her classmates, when our Masters Showcase launches online on Friday 3 September.

Masters show case poster showing a black and gold feathers with the launch date of September 3 2021
Story category Masters showcase