Pam Kleemann ::: Photographer / Conceptual Artist, Melbourne Australia
Breast Plates evolved out of Kleemann’s personal experience with Breast Cancer in 2005, and her interest in the military language used to describe the many forms of cancer.
“A breastplate is a piece of armour that covers the chest or breast area, for protection during battle. Like the post-surgery bras I wore. Cancer is spoken of as a battle, won or lost. A body battle. There’s a war going on. A malignant invasion. A malevolent infiltration. The battle lines are drawn, the trenches dug, the evil rooted out with surgical precision. Shock and awe. I, and the landscape of my breast, have been forever changed.”
Prominent Yale surgeon and medical historian Sherwin B Nuland, MD acknowledges that of all the diseases surgeons treat, cancer is the one that they have specifically named ‘The Enemy’ and the central structure of the cancer cell is known as ‘the evil-eye nucleus’. He refers to breast cancer as the evil invader of women’s bodies and visualises cancer cells as “behaving like the members of a barbarian horde run amok – leaderless and undirected, but with a single-minded purpose: to plunder everything within reach.”1 His language is considered ‘apocalyptic’ by author Sally Cline.2
Kleemann has dedicated this work to the memory of three maverick women - British Photographers Jo Spence and Helen Chadwick, and American Writer Audre Lorde, ‘one-breasted proud black activist’.
Getting a brain tumour made me profoundly aware of, and grateful for, how atypical my experiences learing a queer model of health rights in the early HIV/AIDS era was.
Atypical in that a community, health professionals, and suffers of a taboo condition came together to demand - aggressively and erotically - that health care center people in their communities. The hostilities around that disease, which were considerable and continue today, were directed outwards - against anyone who denied our humanity and worth in treatment - rather than inwards, onto patients to render their bodies subject to a territorial pissing match between both the disease and the politics of medial heirarchy and funding.
Belatedly, I’m so grateful to you guys.