Magazine article Tate Etc.

Anyone for Clarke's World-Famed Blood Mixture?

Magazine article Tate Etc.

Anyone for Clarke's World-Famed Blood Mixture?

Article excerpt

I've always been interested in the artistry of remedies and the creative methods used in defence of a cure. My heritage is rural Indian, and by god we re a superstitious bunch! We pray at the village snake shrine to reverse illnesses, to overcome a bad harvest or a bad marriage. As a child I was subjected to a series of dubious treatments to cure asthma and eczema. These included being flown to the Punjab and being held under the waters of the Golden Temple until I'd turned blue, or being subjected to large doses of chicken broth, a dark sickly concoction, as part of my daily breakfast. So I was intrigued to find in the Tate Archive a British Medical Association book that pulls the lid off cures for a variety of illnesses. Its sober title is Secret remedies, what they cost and what they contain, based on analyses made for the British Medical Association. The method of the authors is straightforward: to reveal the ailment and its vaunted cure and then to state the chemical composition of the medicine as a way of showing how the mix would hope-lessly fail the task of its intentions.

One such medicine of great promise is Owbridge's Lung Tonic, which is designed to cure ?all affections of the chest, throat and lungs'. An accompanying pamphlet boasts that after one dose of the tonic, ?the lungs and bronchial tubes will be fortified and invigorated to an extraordinary degree'. Not only that, a short final sentence states: ?Cure is quite certain.' I love the understated confidence, especially given that the BMA analysis shows the product contains, among other things, alcohol and chloroform. It's hard to know how conscious the lung-afflicted patient would be to assess the state of their restoration.

Ingenious names for medicines make this red hardback an amusing exposé: Veno's Lightning Cough Cure. Bell's Fairy Cure, Anti-Rheumatic Pearls. Clarke's World-Famed Blood Mixture. …

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