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Capsule review

Gallery: The artwork of Pharmacopoeia

The artists Susie Freeman and David Critchley and doctor Liz Lee give new meaning to the phrase “body of work.” Over the years, the British trio has collaborated on art that riffs on how we respond to medical issues, armed with a dispensary of drugs to boost our sense of wellness. Calling themselves Pharmacopoeia, they incorporate pills and their packaging into fabric by a process known as “pocket knitting,” creating objects and installations that seem to beg the question: In the overmedicated world we live in, have we created landscapes of healing — or of harm? Their creations conjure up a worrying world, one that synthesizes and then explodes the idea of treatment, cure, and well-being.



What Once Was Imagined (2015)
10-metre circular installation illustrating medicine in the 21st century

Susie Freeman and Liz Lee

Commissioned for the exhibition INVENTO, at OCA Museum in São Paulo

Inspired by global plant sources for medicines and fashioned in the form of a mantilha — a Brazilian headdress — the artwork reconfigures more than 9,000 pills and packets into a richly composed amalgam of plant life.

Photo: Marcelo Elídio



OTC Veil (1998)
Monofilament-knitted pockets encasing nonprescription pills

Susie Freeman and Liz Lee

The first collaboration by Freeman and Lee is a not-so-veiled commentary about “political prescribing,” or how women were given sedatives because it afforded society an easy way of dealing with poverty and domestic violence.

Photo: Chlöe Stewart



White Pain (2007)
The packaging that remains after a lifetime of painkillers

Susie Freeman and Liz Lee

For Medical Mesh, Museum of Decorative Art, Bergen, Norway

Mesh pockets chronicle the array of drugs one man takes — starting as a child with pills for earache, toothache, and sore throats through painkillers and anti-depressants in adulthood to opiates for cancer at the end of his life.

Photo: Susie Freeman



Wieg tot Graf (2009)
Fabric under glass contains all the pills that “everywoman” and “everyman” living in the Netherlands today have been prescribed.

Susie Freeman, Liz Lee, and David Critchley

A Dutch version of The British Museum installation Cradle to Grave, Wieg tot Graf reveals the story of a typical man and woman through the medication they have taken in their lifetime, accompanied by family album photographs, documents, and objects. On permanent display at CBG-MEB (Medicines Evaluation Board), Utrecht, Netherlands.

Photo: Susie Freeman


The installation at the exhibition Daglig Dosis, Silkeborg Art Centre, Jutland, Denmark, in 2011.

Photo: David Critchley