Press release

‘Fun with Cancer Patients’ unpicks myths around illness

‘Fun with Cancer Patients’ is a unique project from artist Brian Lobel, alongside Fierce Festival and Birmingham’s Teenage Cancer Trust. Supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, it aims to challenge the taboos and myths of living with cancer.

The exhibition, opening at Fierce Festival on September 7 2013 is the brainchild of Lobel. He has spent several months working with patients aged 13 to 21 at the QE Hospital in Selly Oak. Together, the teenagers are challenging taboos around cancer and dealing with them head on in an open and honest way.

Lobel, who experienced cancer as a young man, has devoted much of his career to upsetting lazy perceptions of the illness. He said: "There are so many cliches surrounding cancer, in particular the idea of a brave victim battling against the cancer enemy and coming through victorious.

"With this project we are getting past all of that, to the heart of the everyday boredoms, irritations and unexpected friendships that are part of treatment and recovery. We are using creative happenings to chart the daily realities of living with cancer, and having a bit of fun in the process."

In workshop sessions, the group picked out many daily experiences and emotions that are the subject of creative happenings, culminating in the exhibition at Fierce Festival.

The beeping sound of the drip bags was named as a particular (and constant) irritation. One member recorded the beep on his iPhone, and the sound file was remixed into a ringtone and dance tune, available to download through the Fierce Festival website.

Hospital food is another point of interest for the group: in particular, they discussed how meals have to be chosen from a menu the day before they are served, yet a person's tastes can change rapidly when they are being treated for cancer. Working with food artists Blanch and Shock and in consultation with the hospital's dietetics staff, a team of chefs have been called in to create a meal within the confines of the ward, served within an hour of the initial order - so the meal caters for precisely what their appetite calls for at that point in time.

'Fun with Cancer Patients' opens at mac birmingham on 7 September and continues to 6 October. It is part of Fierce Festival, which this year celebrates its 15th edition.

Fierce 2013 will infuse the city with art, filling spaces across Birmingham – from theatres and galleries to garages and public squares. For more information on the festival, visit the Fierce website.