'Je Suis Méduse' says Tom de Freston in his book Wreck:Gericault’s Raft and the Art of Being Lost at Sea*, the phrase meaning literally ‘I am jellyfish'. De Freston is reflecting on the lifecycles of the ‘immortal’ jellyfish turritopsis dohrni and its famous ability to cheat death. A turritopsis dohrni begins life as a colony of polyps, each genetically identical clones of the other that merge as they mature to form a single, adult creature. When subjected to stress, attack, or injury this organism can revert to its previous multiplicitous state, return to a cluster of seemingly innocuous fragments until it feels safe enough to re-form into one being.
It is in the context of fragmentation of the self in the face of trauma that Tom finds his kinship with the jellyfish. Wreck is a remarkable book that plays with art history, autobiography, word, and image to explore the fragmentations and reformations of a life.
When I found myself stitching 'Je Suis Méduse', it was a statement of my kinship to The Medusa herself rather than marine life, immortal or otherwise, although I do love that her name denominates these sinister ocean stingers, sub-phylum Medusozoa with their trailing, serpentine tentacles! I have a new raft of embroidered messages floating my way at the moment. Scraps of fabric, word and image-plays arriving on restless seas. Watch this space for more pithy bon-mots in the weeks ahead. * Wreck: Gericault's Raft & the Art of Being Lost at Sea, Tom de Freston Granta 2022