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Public Sphere

Justin Piccirilli

Born opposite Big Ben in 1977.  

Where am I today? That's a good question. I'm not quite sure if I'm honest. Like most of us, I have no other option but to work from home. In the past year, I have felt like I've been stuck in a vacuum, in a perpetual objectless state of consciousness, endlessly searching for my narrative compass.

I recently returned from my leave of absence because I became a father for the first time, a sublime moment, etched into a very distinct annus horribilis. My son was born a few days before the first lockdown, on the Ides of March, which happens to be two days after my second birthday. Don't worry, you've read that correctly. In near-death experiences, you have second birthdays. The morning after my son was born, I needed to have emergency skin graft surgery at another hospital.





Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Public Sphere

No narrative of trauma can be told in a linear way; it has a time signature that must fracture conventional causality. Richard Luckhurst, The Trauma Question, 2008.

In the last decade, we have witnessed the rapid increase of systemic barriers, disguised through austerity and sold to the public as welfare reforms, which are designed to socially exclude and victimise the most vulnerable in our society.

Since 2013, 17,070 sick and disabled claimants, died waiting for welfare benefits. The national audit office is requesting information from the Department for Work and Pensions, but ministers refused to provide a Member of Parliament with figures on the number of people in the welfare system who had taken their own lives. These personal feelings of isolation and social exclusion are now ubiquitous on account of this pandemic.

Being maimed, unable to work, opioid-induced, depressed, isolated, then targeted and dragged through tribunal courts is beyond belief, until it happens to you.

My project reflects my active support for the current campaigns to hold the government to account and reveals the phenomenological experience of producing work that demonstrates my journey of catharsis within my rehabilitation, adapting to disability, adopting art as therapy, navigating socio-political barriers, amidst symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am particularly focused on PTSD and near-death experience (NDE), concerning phenomenology and how it affects one's experience of space, time, and our existence in this world.

So…here I am,

sort of,

still being-in-the-world,

a survived spirit,

on a flat screen,

memory encrypted,

perpetually fluctuating,


in and out of the void.


I am especially interested in how functional or non-functional sculpture deals with the subjectivity/objectivity of the human condition. I am keen to explore our average, everyday understanding of the world, as it is expressed in the totality of our relationships to the ready-to-hand entities of this existence. Before the first lockdown, I built sculptures that were created by bending and manipulating mild steel pipe. The deformation of material representing the physical stress that expresses the internal forces one is put through when jumping through never-ending bureaucratic loops in search of truth and justice.

This piece is dedicated to Roy Curtis, a twenty-eight year old man with autism, with his life ahead of him, who couldn’t face having another assessment, decided to take his own life instead. His body was discovered by bailiffs who were preparing to evict him, because the powers at be, decided to stop his payments for his rent. There are countless stories like Roy’s, you could fill a mass grave with them. It’s time for this inhumane policy to stop.


Mild steel, brass, rubber and PVC.


135 x 60 x 6cm

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Present-at-hand — Mild steel, water, brass, rubber, PVC, cardboard and concrete.

This fountain of objects lose their usefulness and appear as merely there, present-at-hand, they are revealed as present-at-hand, they stand apart from any useful set of equipment but soon lose this mode of being present-at-hand and become something, for example, that must be repaired or replaced. These objects of imitation exemplify this redundancy, shining a light on the social model of disability, observing the world through impairment or difference, away from the medical model, always questioning what is wrong, seeking to repair or correct marginalised individuals.




26 seconds

Qualia: Study Part 1

The data captured from the magnetic resonance images (MRI) of my head is a record that embodies a moment within my subjective, conscious experience of trauma. A near-death experience feels like death and rebirth, an infection of light that occurs at the event when you remember too much or remember too little. The catalyst for this idea came from an appointment I had at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel in London, where I was an inpatient in the trauma ward, following my accident back in Milan in 2015. Not long ago, I submitted a Freedom for Information Request to obtain all my medical records.


Ink on paper


27 x 27cm

Qualia: Study Part 2

After collecting all of the imaging data from the MRIs and converting them using segmentation software to generate a printable 3D model. The model of the skull has been formed by using a 3D printer. The parallels between the process of 3D printing and the assembly of all the MRIs are relatively similar, the slicing of compressed data mounted on top of one another creating a tangible object representing the digitalisation and medicalisation of trauma.


Deft Resin


14.6 x 16.3 x 13.8cm
Qualia: Study Part 3

Where am I going with this?

During the pandemic, I have been coerced into experimenting with digital 3D objects and I've been curious to see how they adapt in a time-based media format. I've been playing with the emergence of objects, a mode of holism, from the transformative reduction of data. How would you go about collecting and storing unconscious and conscious data? I'm curious to find out if it will ever be possible to restructure our brains, so that I can remember everything from that fateful day in March 2015? When handling this object of imitation, this embodiment of my existence gives rise to a kaleidoscopic assortment of emotional responses, raising the question, if it would be possible to access an inside view of the stream of consciousness and put it into the public sphere.




20 secs

Snowdon Trust


Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust

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