I am standing in a fluorescent-lit hallway of the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at 6:45 A.M. on a Monday, yelling into a phone, confused. This was the beginning of a durational performance, “Partners,” that took place between September and November of 2015 and involved myself and Emblem Health Insurance. Moving through spaces both physical and nonmaterial, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to the Westchester Medical Group in New York and the Yelp page for Emblem Health to an Emblem Health blog called “Who’s Caring For You?,” this performance explored inadvertent actions and their consequences.
Initiated by Emblem Health when the company declined to cover an imaging procedure I needed, “Partners” was then continued by my own repeated phone calls and the involvement of other participants these calls resulted in: I initiated a series of phone calls made by my parents and two doctors offices in attempts to reach Emblem Health, to access and convey information. Thus fully initiated, “Partners” used the space of my body to explore relationships between corporate bureaucracies, family, and networked paths of money and care, all suspended in a period of three months. Each time my body enters Brigham and Women’s Hospital, how differently is my body understood as opposed to that of the son-in-law of Carl J. Shapiro (of the aforementioned Shapiro Cardiovascular Center), who happens to be the chair of surgery there? When I am not in a position to physically access the sites of Emblem Health, how does this change the function of their website and blog? How does the repetition of phone calls, whether made by myself or initiated for the performance, reach a point of saturation? These questions and relationships produced documentation ranging from the drawing included here to copies of my medical records both personally produced and made available by Brigham and Women’s, as well as an essay titled “Smilow.” Ultimately, this performance ended on November 24th, 2015 during an action that took place over two hours: I had a colonoscopy during which an adenoma (an internal growth that develops into colon cancer) was removed. The imaging study initially denied by Emblem Health would not have found this growth. “Partners” created a space in which the inadvertent and unintentional actions of Emblem Health and myself resulted in changed physical conditions and a new understanding of the potentials and differing trajectories of duration.