Joanna Callaghan's My Fantastic Voyage screens at South East Dance in Brighton as part of her solo exhibition 'Goodbye Breasts!' Through an installation of a giant inflatable breast, a new documentary film, her FVU video commission and other events, Callaghan explores breast cancer through her own experience and stories shared by other women, highlighting the healing powers of art in recovery.
The 1966 feature film Fantastic Voyage is a science-fiction classic of its time, in which a futuristic, forward-looking faith in technology as an instrument of medical intervention co-exists with an Aquarian, almost psychedelic fascination with the body as a source of mystery and wonder. A team of scientists and submariners are miniaturised to microbial scale and injected into the bloodstream of a dying man; their intravenous descent into the recesses of the body rendered as a rollercoaster ride through a fabulous, alien netherworld. In her homage to the film, Joanna Callaghan enlists Fantastic Voyage as a playful lodestar guiding her own personal journey to better understand and visualise her condition after a diagnosis with breast cancer. Grim, grey MRI scans on grim, grey hospital wards morph into a technicolour dreamscape through which Callaghan swims and glides, as if momentarily freed from the gravity of her situation, and the worries and anxieties that accompany it. In this looking-glass universe, the granular details of the body take on strange, hallucinatory forms: healthy cells cluster around her like luxuriant fruit, or festoon the cavities like party balloons, while the black spot of a malign growth is faced down, and then magically dispelled – an act of self-scrutiny and self-care doubling as an augury of self-cure. As the seven-minute video draws to a close, we see Callaghan beaming and dancing alongside her son: their choreographed movements a mix of graceful callisthenics and recuperative exercise. Endearing, affecting and uplifting, My Fantastic Voyage is a bite-sized odyssey that treats the facts of illness with joyful insouciance and a poignant, compelling humanity.
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella as part of BEYOND #2.