ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), is a debilitating, multi-faceted, but invisible illness that affects over 250,000 people in the UK and hundreds of thousands worldwide. Described by sociologist Neville Millen (2003) as: “A chimera-like medical anomaly, a variant illness entity that like the mythical creature is composed of a complex and mysterious combination of parts which defy a clear description”, the chronically ill ME sufferer experiences invisibility on not one, but four interlinked fronts: physical, social, medical, and political invisibility.
In Portrait of an Invisible Illness II, visual artist Juliet Chenery-Robson revisits a series of three interlinked projects (Unpredictable Patterns, A Diagnosis of Exclusion: Kingdoms of the Sick and Portrait of an Invisible Illness, 2007-2015) that employ a range of strategies for visualising ME and its contingent invisibilities.
To document a complex disease with no visible signs, but rather a collection of fluctuating symptoms, required a metaphorical approach. Therefore, alongside participatory practice with ME sufferers, the artist explored the illnesses’ many layers through a combination of portrait, medical and domestic photographs, textual illness narratives and SenseCam images.