Anatomy of Words: Medication

pill popping: Photo of bubble wrap, pills, tape


control panel: Pills on construction paper


Van Servellen (2009) tells the story of an 88-year-old woman who has medications for several ailments but is not able to read the prescription on the pill bottles: “so she takes one, the one she thinks she needs to take. Then an hour after, returns to take a second pill. This time she remembers the doctor told her to take two pills twice a day, so she takes four “(p. 220). I suspect this is not an isolated event for patients considering that the American Medical Association (2008) found “up to 78% misinterpret warnings on prescription labels” (p. 12).

Pill Popping reflects on these two studies. The 23-foot strip of bubble wrap (approximate length of an adult female’s small intestine) contains pills sorted into random dosages.  Although bubble wrap is typically associated with protecting fragile objects, in this case it contains a toxic mix of medication. I dropped the strip onto a surface to get random arrangements, and photographed various positioning of pills. The playful colours and abstract compositions veil their deadly potential. 

With its orderly rows of pills, Control Panel provides contrast to Pill Popping. It suggests that the pills were arranged by someone who understands and controls their prescribed use.



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