Personal Belongings

Personal Belongings

Personal Belongings was a collaboration with Jess LeClair. It chronicled the events surrounding a hospital stay during the process of donating half my liver to save the life of a friend. 

Initially we’d intended to make a straightforward video documentary.  However, in actual practice, this turned out to be much more challenging. They don’t just let you film in a hospital. There’s patient privacy issues, and even if the camera is turned away from everyone who isn’t consenting, the audio might pick up something. It’s also nothing like what you see on TV. The action isn’t constructed in a way that lends itself to an entertaining narrative. Instead you have long periods of tedium where nothing worth noting is happening, punctuated by intense periods of anxiety, pain and chaos that are impossible to capture. 

The whole experience was really too big, emotionally, to capture adequately in any single medium, so we used mixed media and a process we called triangulation. We used three sets of data: 1) Medical records, x-rays, CT scans and other official information generated by the hospital. 2) My personal narrative, including prose and photos. 3) Third party source, including Facebook comments, letters and so on.

We built a special box, wrapped in the Personal Belongings plastic bag that they give you to contain everything you brought to the hospital that you don’t want to lose. The viewer rummages through the box, going through narrative pieces, photos, scrolling Facebook entries, and other items, and is able to construct a complex, deeply personal story about what happened.