Even in increasingly digitised healthcare environments, paper and other printed materials remain central documents in the landscape of health and wellbeing. Talking Flowers explores the materialities of health information and healthcare encounters by creatively layering a diverse range of materials: clippings from MRI scans, digitally warped and recoloured images from medical infographics, and found poetry made from research publications. In this way, this zine remixes and reconstitutes key documents of authority in health institutions which continue to take primacy as evidence. While vital in the pipeline of diagnosis and treatment, such documents can become black boxes of meaning, and serve to distance health professionals from consumers and consumers from their own health. These evidentiary materials are brought together here with other imagery, textures, and recollections of personal experience; the pages also feature leaves, flowers, fungi and oceanic tones.
The water was a particular place of significance for participants I spoke to as part of the Creative Approaches to Health Information Ecologies project (UNSW HC220202), and this resonated with me greatly. Blue spaces are significant sites of feeling well. Oceans, pools, rivers, lakes and other coastal forms or waterways offer all-consuming sensory spaces in which people can find calm, balance, buoyancy and connection with the wider world. Aqua tides, purple eddies and misshapen pearls flow through the pages as the golden thread of this zine’s aesthetic theme. Also featured are three original poems. The second poem, untitled, is a found poem made from the conclusions of pivotal sociologist Talcott Parsons’ 1975 article ‘The sick role and the role of the physician reconsidered’. The first and third poems, talking to a doctor and talking to other people, explore moments of relational vulnerability. In these, information and communication jar the encounters and more-than-human metaphors hold space for complex feelings. The cover similarly merges imagery from botanical and historical medical illustrations with a silver shell, evoking the morphological dimensions that connect the more-than-human.