Single Use Only
In Single Use Only, Sudhoff presents enlarged, detailed views of the autoclaved medical waste ﬂanking a single bench cast from recycled waste and cement. Large-scale color photographs accentuate the wealth of surface textures and colors she pursued. Highlighting the saturated purple bulging mass of a cooked latex glove, the folded and bubbling pink plastics, or the vein-like wrinkles on a biohazard bag that had melted into itself, her works transform autoclaved waste into full-bodied, graceful abstractions. Her brilliant, predominately red and pink compositions reference the very organs, skin, cellular structures, arteries, and heart valves that have been potentially touched, cured, or protected by the medical products before they were melted.
Single Use Only is a new chapter in Sudhoff’s examination of the body and mortality in medical contexts through an extended investigation of the life of hospital waste. To ensure tools and other hazardous materials such as IV bags, latex gloves, syringes, or biohazard bags are sterilized before transfer to a landﬁll or recycling plant, they must be processed by facilities called autoclaves. Access to autoclaves, like many of Sudhoff’s projects, required special permission and speciﬁc levels of access that required months to obtain, given that the material is hazardous before sterilization and that it might contain conﬁdential patient information.
Once sterilized in autoclave, the syringes, lancets, IV bags, test tubes, gauze, and gloves— items often imprinted with the text labeled as “Single Use Only”—are all able to be recycled. This sterilized medical waste can be burned as energy to power homes and hospitals, and the ash from burning can be collected and used as an additive for cement and other construction material. Sudhoff incinerated a sampling of shredded, autoclaved medical waste and mixed the resulting ashes to create the cement in the installation’s bench. Sitting on the piece of furniture becomes an act of empathy; it is an intimate connection to the material that touched illness,crime, or death—and is an atypical experience in an American culture that tends to deny death and decay. The exhibition serves as a visual and material parallel to the act of organ transplants or the act of recycling parts of the body—a delineation of the new energy that comes from sickness or death.