by Nicholas Quin Serenati
Locating Place: Fragments of an Illness is the beginning of a three-part series. The next installment is Reclaiming Experiential Residue: Misconceptions.
About the series: Illness experience is a resource for experiential knowledge. To that extent, it is important to understand that life has infinite spaces which can be experienced. My work is concerned with phenomenological experiences that transform these spaces into places. These places become the foundations in our individual lives – the construct of our identity. The work in this series is intended to ascertain an understanding of the ways meaning–making functions as a method for healing, and how the creative process operates to uncover and identify new metaphors that best communicate illness experience to others.
We all have bodies. This is not a truism. It is not an exercise in the obvious. It is a fact – and a fact of a special kind. It is an incontestable fact. Everything we do, we do as or by means of our body. We cannot get beyond the fact that we are bodies. The body is, simply put, where everything in human culture begins and ends.
(Tobin Siebers, Disability Aesthetics)
When I look at the work that I have produced as an artist, I have come to realize the importance of the body as the locus for inquiry and discovery. The idea of the body as a critical lens for investigating the theoretical and philosophical implications of representation and voice in illness experience is a common thread in my work – whether consciously or subconsciously. My unrelenting interest of the body can most easily be attributed to a personal experience with illness when in 2001 I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).
Being a young man at the time, the profundity of this experience sparked a curiosity of the human condition that has lingered in many ways over the course of 13 years in remission. Most notably, my illness experience has emerged as a significant preoccupation in my research and creative work. Mortality, representation, voice, identity, humanness, Buddhism, metaphors, illness and disability studies as well as the formal and experimental aesthetics that encompass my art practice, have all played a vital role in the identification of place in my life.
The study of the body – my body – as a territory occupied by illness is my attempt to pierce to the marrow of the questions that inform my art practice. That is why I believe it is through the study of illness experience that a deeply engaged and meaningful source for experiential knowledge can be achieved.
In this particular exploration, I employed video and sound design to execute a reconstruction of experience.
The result is my 2011 film, Fragments of an Illness. This film came to exist as a final research project in my doctoral course, HMS 711: The Human Condition: Pursuit of Happiness. Fragments of an Illness situates specific recollections as a metaphorzed-reality within the film. Presented with a concentration into the blending of speed, color, composition, language, sound, and narrative establishment(s), these fragments were my attempt to bridge a dialogue about illness with the aesthetics of the medium and conceivable metaphorical notions.
Nicholas Quin Serenati is an interdisciplinary scholar-artist whose work is defined by arts-based research that explores the potential of medium and discipline in liminal spaces. With a practice rooted in locating one’s place, Serenati employs video, creative writing, photography, sound, installation and performance to investigate forming situations that direct his research around illness and metaphor.
Serenati’s intellectual practice deeply engages the creation of meaning – form and function – and the articulation of story throughout the investigative process. Themes of trauma, identity, illness, disability, experimental narrative, social constructivism, sound and language are all contributing factors to Serenati’s work as a critical discourse. Serenati’s scholarly-art practice is intended to investigate phenomena as a way of achieving profound knowledge of theory, philosophy and art.
Based out of St. Augustine, Florida, Serenati holds a BA in Communications from Flagler College, an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and is a candidate for his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Humanities and Culture from Union Institute & University. He is currently the Art Director / Dept. Chair of the Cinematic Arts program at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and an adjunct professor of media and cinema studies at Flagler College.
Serenati’s dissertation, ReFraming Leukemia: Metaphorizing Illness as Windows, will be completed May 2014, and the installation of the project is set for early 2015 in St. Augustine, Florida.