In the UK, there are 9 million people caring for family members and friends with long-term illnesses and disabilities. Their invisible labour saves the government £132bn each year, almost the cost of a second NHS.
University of Exeter academics, Dr Catriona McKenzie and Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer, have been developing plans for new research that will bring together archaeology, anthropology, and history to support contemporary family carers.
The Invisible Carer is a piece of visual art inspired by this research and commissioned by the University of Exeter Arts and Culture Creative Fellowship. This installation involves the projection of a hand drawn animation of a carer struggling to hold her husband who she cares for, capturing the strength and vulnerability of family carers, and hopefully prompt powerful conversations about care in Exeter.
The piece depicts a carer trying to support the weight of her husband as he slowly begins to slip from her hands. This acts as a metaphor for the mental and strain experienced by invisible carers and vulnerabilities. As the husband begins to slip from her hold, she finds the strength to lift him and support him once more.
This is to identify with the strength invisible carers must find during these very difficult periods, as well as representing the role reversal.
Photographs by Pam Gurney