Decay Theory is a body of work informed by the Swedish sugar experiments carried out between 1945-1954 at Vipeholm Hospital in Southern Sweden. The mixture of archival imagery and Littlewood’s own studio photography examines new visual possibilities, where the artist creates a recontextualised archive of teeth and the mouth.
The image of the face is iconic to the project, standing in as a symbol for the patients at Vipeholm who were subjected to treatments that they could not verbally consent to (due to their mental capabilities). The viewer may be unsure if the eyeless visage is blindly smiling or screaming. In the one-minute film, Decay Theory, the banner moves silently in the wind, attached to the Valand Academy building in the inner courtyard. The banner has been physically placed back onto the institution, as a comment on the current closure of art schools, due to COVID-19.
The instructional video (00:02:02) shows the viewer how to fold their very own printable PDF to create a mini publication at home. With the advent of online platforms replacing physical shows, it became a challenge to find a way to bring a physicality back to the work. With a PDF designed so that anyone can download and print it themselves, the work breached the virtual and physical formats, contextualised within the tradition of DIY publishing. The PDF publication contains many elements from the overall project, Decay Theory, and includes a poster verso, allowing the print-out to become either a book or an image to display.