PLATFORM centre is excited to announce the solo exhibition A Wish Stays With You featuring new work by Hannah Doucet (ON) co-presented with WNDX festival of moving image.
EXHIBITION | 16 September – 22 October 2022
OPENING RECEPTION | 16 September at 7PM
ARTIST TALK | 16 September at 6PM
When I was ten, I wished to visit Disney World.
Each year at least 13,000 critically ill children make this same wish. I made my wish after two years of treatment for Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.
These are wishes made with wish-granting agencies. They are “official” wishes, within a philanthropic industry that guarantees fulfillment. In this context, wish-fulfillment is transformed into something tangible, executable, and aligned with corporate structures. The connection between critical illness and wish fulfillment is complex. Here, it’s as if the illness has taken the place of the ritualistic wish object: the wishbone, the wishing well, the wish chip, the shooting star—instead, the child wishes on their illness.
In Canada and the U.S., half of all eligible children wish to visit Disney World. In response to the ongoing popularity of the Disney wish, Give Kids the World Village (GKTWV), a non-profit resort that accommodates critically ill children and their families on their trip to visit Disney World, opened in 1986.
A Wish Stays With You satirizes, reflects on, and theorizes around aesthetic seduction at Disney and GKTWV. Within the exhibition my use of the mediums of photography, video and sculpture grapples with the aesthetics of branding and marketing alongside built (and crumbling) fantasy spaces and research aesthetics borrowed from my studio wall. These visual languages of presentation (seduction) and research (critical engagement) form the basis of the exhibition.
The exhibition weaves together explorations of memory, capitalist constructions of fantasy, corporate philanthropy, problematizing the histories of wish-granting charities, advertising, performance, death, illness, disability, ableism within fairy tales, and toxic positivity. Through an autotheoretical lens A Wish Stays With You represents a ‘pulling back of the curtain’ on the long-standing relationship between charitable organizations devoted to fulfilling critically-ill children’s wishes and Disney, the corporate media giant that spins tales of realized dreams.
Embedded in the structure of wish-granting agencies and GKTWV is the inherent belief that fantasy can alter the direction of a child’s life. When interviewed about the village, President of GKTWV Pamela Landwirth says they strive to: “create a feeling of such intense happiness that makes you feel like you can conquer the world, we want to send these kids back with that feeling, I can do anything, I can conquer anything because I’ve got this happiness.” Notions of happiness and positivity as forces that can heal illness is an underlying narrative so pervasive in the colliding worlds of healthcare and wellness, wish-granting agencies and Disney. The work links together these sectors for their joint pronouncement on the importance and necessity of happiness. Through this exploration I attempt to insert nuance and complexity within otherwise purely positive narratives.
Swiss theorist Max Lüthi writes that fairy-tales “are a form of hope. We fill our heads with improbable happy endings, and are able to live—in daydreams—in a world in which they are not only possible but inevitable.” Disney fairy tale narratives are so embedded with hope, ever-present with a “happy ending.” Likewise, Lauren Berlant theorizes the concept of cruel optimism as “the condition of maintaining an attachment to a significantly problematic object. ….the fear is that the loss of the promising object/ scene itself will defeat the capacity to have any hope about anything.” When I think of GKTWV and the context of childhood illness, I wonder, how do these fairy-tale narratives support us, and how do they harmfully implicate themselves in our understanding of reality? Berlant’s conceptualization resonates here. This wish-granting format, and specifically the Disney wish, asks the wisher to maintain hope and attachment to capitalism, fairy tales and Disney, in order to maintain hope about anything at all
The imagery at GKTWV is playful and joyful, yet dated. The structures are worn, teetering, on the verge of breaking. The immersive fantastical scenes here lack the detail and complexity of Disney. GKTWV is a space where fantasy, illness and wish-fulfillment co-exist. This liminal space fascinates me. It is here that we see Disney’s construction of the able-bodied ideal confronted with the dimensionality, animation, and nuance of disabled and ill children. I am struck by the uniqueness of a resort that exists solely for hosting sick kids and how they differ from those intended for the general public. In a community founded to provide space for sick children to thrive beyond the limitations of their illness, does illness recede or come to the forefront? What does it mean to make space for sick children within Disney—a place that has continually perpetuated narratives that condemn different and disabled bodies?
In The Undying, Anne Boyer writes, “I would rather write nothing at all than propagandize for the world as is.” Similarly, I desire to look and think deeply about my experience with the Disney wish and push forward into a space where thoughts unravel and tangents emerge, where the image of a benevolent good dissipates and a picture that is altogether more strange, interesting, and complex emerges.
*A variation of some of these words were first published in Border Crossings’ August 2021 Issue on Photography in a text titled A Wish Stays With You
I would like to acknowledge the Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts for their support at different stages in the creation of this body of work.
Please ensure social distancing is maintained and stay home if you are feeling sick. We kindly encourage you wear a mask when inside the gallery. PLATFORM is an accessible venue. Appointments are not required, please drop in to see the exhibition during regular gallery hours.
Hannah Doucet (she/her) is an artist, arts educator and cultural worker from Treaty 1 Territory currently based in Tkaronto. She works within photography, video and sculpture to create work that explores relationships between wish fulfillment, illness and fantasy. Her practice engages the body, illness, anxiety, as well as materiality and failure within the medium of photography. Doucet has exhibited across Canada, with exhibitions at Neutral Ground (Regina) Duplex (Vancouver), PLATFORM ( Winnipeg), The New Gallery ( Calgary) and Gallery 44 (Toronto). Doucet was the inaugural winner of the PLATFORM photography award in 2017 and was long listed for the National Gallery of Canada’s New Generation Photography award in 2019. She is one of four founders of Blinkers, a non-profit project space based in Winnipeg, where she was a co-director until August 2021. She has over 10 years of experience working within community arts as an artist facilitator and educator in schools, community resource centers, hospitals, and art galleries. She is currently the Program Coordinator at VIBE Arts, a community arts organization based in Toronto.
Still from Watch in Awe, video, 3 minutes 24 second, 2021.