Sharona Franklin, Drosophila Clock X, 2021, silver, brass, aluminum, mixed metal, expired pharmaceuticals, wood, foraged bone, antler, photographs, enamel, 19 3⁄4 × 19 3⁄4".

Sharona Franklin, Drosophila Clock X, 2021, silver, brass, aluminum, mixed metal, expired pharmaceuticals, wood, foraged bone, antler, photographs, enamel, 19 3⁄4 × 19 3⁄4".

Sharona Franklin


IT AIN’T CARE IF IT AIN’T CAREFUL, read the black uppercase letters against lime-green shag in Sharona Franklin’s wool-carpet work If it ain’t careful, 2021. Stretching the length of the wood-paneled wall that faces the gallery entrance, alongside two other green-carpet text works, the piece functioned as a greeting—and an instruction of sorts—for visitors to Franklin’s exhibition “Axioms of Care.” (The show was curated by Laura Stellacci for the Pristina, Kosovo–based gallery LambdaLambdaLambda, which shares the Brussels space La Maison de Rendez-Vous with two other international galleries.) Evocative of 1960s album covers and hippie paraphernalia, the text’s ballooning Abstract Groovy font, which the Canadian artist also used for the dedication page of her 2016 publication Rental Bod, positions disability as a psychedelic experience. The slogan also alludes to the way in which inept or inadequate attempts at care can be harmful. Taking the hallucinogenic effects of many of her own medications as a starting point, Franklin, who lives with various degenerative autoimmune diseases and has received nearly two dozen diagnoses, posits chronic illness as an altered state of being: a reorientation of the body’s relationship with itself and daily life that should be acknowledged and explored, rather than stigmatized and suppressed.

There is something didactic about Franklin’s work, reminiscent in some ways of the practice of Puppies Puppies (Jade Kuriki-Olivo). Both artists are confident of the urgency of their stories and refuse to shy away from easy metaphor (sometimes hitting the nail on the head just works). Take Franklin’s Drosophila Clock Y and Drosophila Clock X, both 2021, a pair of mandala-like arrangements in which silver teaspoons fan out like the hands of a clock. Each spoon cradles an assortment of pills, while its handle is detailed with a tiny enamel photograph of a syringe. Drawing on her own daily pharmaceutical ritual—she photographs her syringes prior to injecting herself with antibodies and takes or has taken the pills displayed here—Franklin rejiggers the mawkish trappings of domesticity to express a home life structured by other rhythms. The works allude to Alison Kafer’s notion of crip time: “Rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock,” Kafer writes, “crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.” The sculptures, which remain tethered to Franklin’s work as a writer and an activist, function largely as vehicles of communication; prompting reflection on and evoking ideas about disability is apparently their primary structuring principle.

A group of gelatin sculptures coupled the clock works’ loose metaphorical register with a palpable material experimentation. Mounted on the wall and displayed on plinths and furniture, the works featured arrays of natual and synthetic remedies encased in a translucent amber-colored substance; their air was at once mystical and menacing. In Mitochondrial Somat, 2020, mulberries, kidney beans, tapioca pearls, dried grass, and chamomile blossoms as well as neurological pharmaceuticals, bits of bandage, and a syringe, hover suspended at the center of the deflated rectangular form. These sculptures conjure the body as a recipient of healing concoctions, and a parallel emerges between the works (art objects made by probing the material properties of dehydrated gelatin and a medley of medicines) and the body’s biocitizenship (a condition sustained by experimental blends of plant-based medicine and pharmaceuticals). Their glossy surfaces offer a glimpse into a state of precarious preservation, as the gelatin, which shrinks as it dehumidifies in Franklin’s sculpting process, will eventually decompose. Such is, of course, the fate of all bodies—their constitutive vulnerability. In this way, Franklin’s exhibition fostered a simultaneous sense of identification and a recognition of difference; the realization is integral to the acceptance of a state of radical interdependence that undergirded her “Axioms of Care.”