Sheila Ghelani Covet Me, Care For Me

Covet Me, Care For Me is a quiet, brutal, celebratory performance about heartbreak and heritage, objects and history, anatomy and difference by Performing Medicine Associate Artist Sheila Ghelani.

In November 2011 the piece was shown at Wellcome Collection as part of Clod Ensemble’s Anatomy Season. The work is both durational and participatory and encourages the viewer to consider the mixed-up mess that resides in us all. In the work fifty covetable glass hearts are laid out on the floor, each containing a ‘mongrel’ object (a nurse’s fob watch with additional parts attached). These objects are then claimed one at a time by 50 members of the public over four hours (with a half an hour interval break). Other members of the public form an audience. In order to claim an object, the member of public must sign a ‘receipt note’, dress in safety gear and smash the glass heart containing the object with a hammer.

It was fantastic to have Covet Me, Care for Me at Wellcome Collection as part of the Anatomy Season. The work is beautiful and it created a really contemplative environment for people to consider hearts, love, loss and time.

Rosie Stanbury, Wellcome Collection

Covet Me, Care For Me examines the human heart from many different perspectives, complicating a medical, romantic, or sentimental view of the heart and acknowledging the complexity of our relationship to this powerful muscle.

The piece quietly speaks of the ethics of care, identity, mortality, the fragility of the human body and the violence of medical intervention. It encourages the audience to consider their own relationship to these themes and the act of smashing their own glass heart seems to somehow empower people — giving them a thrilling physical action by which to mark their own personal heartbreak.

The content of the piece was originally informed by Jill Olumide’s book Raiding the Gene Pool: The Social Construction of Mixed Race (2002).