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Untitled #4

printed 1992


Rose Farrell


08 Oct 1949 -

George Parkin


1949 - Jan 2012


‘The work has two components – complex mise-en-scène, and simple tableaux, and presents the physical effects on the body of one or more component of injury. Bandaging forms the essence of the images – citing the loss of knowledge of these original life-saving techniques.’ Rose Farrell & George Parkin 1993 1

The series ‘A passion for maladies’ investigates historical first-aid and hospital routines. This re-creation of ancient bandaging practices explores the impact and rituals of illness in society and acknowledges the increasing isolation of the patient. The tableau is set up in a corner of the artists’ apartment, but the juxtaposition of elements pertaining to the body and to classification reveals the complexities of care and of illness.

Farrell & Parkin have been working together for more than 20 years, Farrell having studied science and later photography, and Parkin a graduate of graphic design. Together they have explored the: ‘histories of therapeutic sciences, both western and non-western, and in particular … historical techniques designed to ‘heal’ both body and mind. Much of their photographic work … has involved the construction and restaging of the instruments and processes of psychophysical therapy. These tableaux play out histories of mind/body/spirit relation, consistently doubled by their other possible allusion to contortion, pain and even torture.’2

The effect of Farrell & Parkin’s work is often unnerving because the viewer cannot see the illness or suffering but can only imagine it. The claustrophobic space within which the life-size tableau is constructed forces attention onto the bandaged body and the accompanying inexplicable objects. The symbology of light and dark, sight and blindness, and various classificatory systems, highlights the ambiguousness of our understanding of ‘health’ and ‘sickness’.

1. Farrell R & Parkin G 1993, artists’ statement, ‘A passion for maladies’, Artspace, Sydney
2. French B 2005, ‘AGNSW contemporary projects: Tranquility: from darkness to light’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney np

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



printed 1992

Media category


Materials used

type C photograph


231.0 x 234.0 cm frame


Purchased 1992


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Rose Farrell

Works in the collection


Artist information

George Parkin

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


George Alexander, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Tableaux - memento mori - screen culture', pg.313-335, Sydney, 2007, 314, 325 (colour illus.).

Judy Annear, Look, 'Points of view: changing attitudes and approaches in Australian photography 1985-95', pg.17-19, Sydney, Nov 2005, 19.

Judy Annear, Points of view: Australian photography 1985-95, Sydney, 2005. no catalogue numbers

Anthony Bond and Victoria Lynn, AGNSW Collections, 'Contemporary Practice - Here, There, Everywhere ...', pg. 229-285, Sydney, 1994, 270 (colour illus.).