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      Artists Hans K Clausen and Kjersti Sletteland collaborated with writer Jenni Fagan and over 700 staff and patient participants, to present a fascinating exhibition set amidst the iconic and theatrical backdrop of the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum. Hand squeezed porcelain ‘artefacts’ produced during participatory workshops across NHS hospital sites as well as drawings, poetry, sculptures and collected biographical information were presented amidst the museums historical anatomical exhibits making for a unique and striking visual experience. Elements of the exhibition were constructed in response to the aesthetics of the museum, for example a replica of a 19th century phrenology cabinet containing a poem by Jenni Fagan, while other aspects used the museum exhibits as a backdrop in which to set their contemporary visual narrative. 

      Anatomy of a Fleeting Moments at Edinburgh Art Festival

      This weekend will see the final performances of ‘Where it Hurts’, directed by Jeremy Weller, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show has been received to high acclaim, with the and The Skinny both awarding it 4 stars.

      The Scotsman named it as a highlight of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018, while The Stage gave the show 5 stars, commending the way the show ‘nailed the zeitgeist’ in its portrayal of ‘compelling verbatim accounts of mental health crises, performed by those directly affected’.

      The final shows will be played this weekend at the Tech Cube, Summerhall, starting tonight a 20.30 and ending on Sunday. Book tickets here:

      Invitation to the launch of this year’s most talked about play at the Fringe 2018.

      Former NHS Artist in residence Jeremy Weller and The Cast invite you to be one of the select audience to help launch our latest production which celebrates the NHS in it’s 70th year.

      The performance will take place at Summerhall (1 Summerhall Place, Edinburgh) at 3pm on Sunday 29th July in TechCube Zero. We would advise you to be at the venue and seated for 2.45pm.

      To attend, please RSVP to Jeremy at [email protected]

      We very much look forward to you joining us at the beginning of our Festival journey.

      Patricia is one of the participants in the production being directed and produced by Jeremy Weller as part of his residency ‘Where it Hurts’. A wide ranging group of individuals have come together to explore personal experiences of accessing NHS services.

      Mama NHS by Patrica Jeram

      If there ever was a presence
      So strong and yet so weak
      Strong in your love, care and compassion
      And weak in same nature
      It would be you Mama NHS

      If there ever was a presence
      So loved and yet so loathed
      Loved and appreciated by most
      Loathed and hated by a few
      It would be you Mama NHS

      From when mum and dad found out about me
      To when I was born and took my very first steps
      You were always here Mama NHS

      And when in childhood freedom
      Oblivious of danger I hurt myself
      When in adolescent stubbornness
      I fell off my bike and cracked my ribs
      You were here to nurse me Mama NHS

      When in adulthood I felt depressed and confused
      When in recklessness I damaged my body
      And blamed everyone for their part
      You were there Mama NHS

      When I cried out for help
      And finding none I jumped
      Hoping to put an end to the pain
      That was no longer a gain
      You were there to catch me and patch me Mama NHS

      When my pal Jimmy gave up waiting for a new liver, you magically provided one
      When my ma broke her hip
      You gave a her a new one
      What a miracle you are Mama NHS!

      But when my pal Amy got breast cancer, you turned her into a statistic and told her she had two years to live. That was insensitive Mama NHS

      And when my mate Jamie died from blood cancer
      And my aunt Nina died from heart attack
      All through no fault of theirs
      You stood by and did not save them Mama NHS

      When my partner died from a crash
      And my sweet little boy lost his wee limbs
      Never to play football or cycle again
      Why did you not reverse it all Mama NHS?

      When my neighbour and his partner wanted children,
      You helped them achieve their dream
      But when I turned to you to ask for same
      You said I was too old Mama NHS

      “Is there ever a limit to a mother’s generosity?” I ask you
      “Blame the politicians, they took my resources, my power and my love” you moan and groan
      “Well I say you’re not fighting hard enough, mama! Every mother fights for her children, young or old! fit or disabled! rich or poor! Fight for your children Mama NHS”

      I feel grateful to you Mama but
      I also feel sad and disappointed
      I feel angry, helpless and powerless
      But I trust you to help me because

      If there ever was a presence so loving, caring, compassionate, intelligent, creative, powerful, gentle and strong!

      It would definitely be you Mama NHS

      ‘Hospital Impressions’ is a project which comments on the transition of the old hospital building to the new one through participation exploring notions of time, memory and place. Staff, visitors, patients and relatives created unique hand impressions by squeezing a ball of raw porcelain during several workshops across four Edinburgh Hospital sites, ‘exploring the emotions that are captured in a moment of reflection and in the intimate space of a hand hold’, said lead artist in residence Hans K Clausen.  

      Having collected, fired and collated over 600 impressions, Hans and collaborating artist Kjersti Sletteland wanted to find a way of reflecting on the process thus far, to critically analyse the purpose and potential of the project and also to share it as a work in progress. In November 2017 they hosted a research day at the City Art Centre focussing on two distinct research approaches. In the morning members of the public were invited to take part in drawing workshops where, led by a life-drawing tutor, an architect and a contemporary image maker, they were asked to observe and draw the Hospital Impressions which were displayed in the gallery space, engaging with the pieces in new, visual and very tactile ways. 

       The resulting 150 drawings have provided the artists with another lens through which to consider the project and some of the drawing contributions may be incorporated into the project outcomes. In the afternoon a panel of professionals and academics from a broad section of disciplines were invited to a round table discussion to respond to the Impressions from their professional perspectives. The panel included; a psychotherapist, an archaeologist, an art therapist, an anaesthetist, a physiotherapist, a hospital chaplain, a museum archivist, a ceramic artist, a senior nurse, a poet and a material culture PhD student. It was chaired by Jonathan Wyatt, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry. What struck them was the simultaneous uniformity and difference of the objects. One participant likened the artefacts to bones, while another was moved by the time people took to examine each piece. A recorded transcription of this debate has given Hans and Kjersti a rich and varied insight to the possible associations and narratives that the work can have, and is now informing their thinking about the final project outcomes. 

      Hans said of the interactions: ‘I think people have surprised themselves. Somebody this morning, when they created an impression, was surprised that they felt fearful. And that’s when I think it works well, when it takes people somewhere different.’  

      Film by Elena Georgieva

      Artists in Residence Jeremy Weller and Hans K Clausen have been exploring the relationships and experiences of hospital staff and patients, and the impact and dynamics of hospital communities moving and evolving, in their residencies: ‘Where it Hurts & Where it Heals’.

      Writer and film and theatre director Jeremy Weller has created ‘Where it Hurts’; an hour long performance involving members of different communities from across Edinburgh and some former staff of the NHS and those currently training to work in the NHS. The current ambition is to stage the performance in a decommissioned ward space later in March or early April.

      The participants, all of whom have had life changing experiences from the NHS, have come together in a workshop setting to share their experiences of engaging with NHS services whilst exploring how those experiences of care have affected their health and wellbeing. The performance explores these people’s experiences of accessing help at the NHS.

      Scenes include real life examples of mental ill health, suicide, addiction, domestic violence, neglect, family breakdown, childhood trauma, isolation, illness, self harm and of often having no one to turn to accept the staff of the NHS. The performance explores why individuals chose to spend their lives caring for others. A common theme that emerged from this process is the fact that some of the people who came to the NHS seeking help actually returned to train as NHS staff, with the hope of somehow repaying the care and support they received in their time of need.

      The performances are deeply personal and extremely moving, questioning the idea of what ‘care’ is whilst exploring how those who most need it live complex lives and are often not able to say what it is that really affects them. The other major theme that is explored in the work is the incredible dedication and sacrifices that are made by NHS staff to help those in the community who are most in need of support.


      Artist residents Hans K Clausen and Jeremy Weller have been exploring the relational elements between the staff, patients and communities around DCN, Sick Kids and CAMHS, both in their existing and future sites. Investigating different ways people meet in hospitals, ways relationships are formed and how people come together in medical settings they are asking in their project Hurts and Heals, ‘What does hurting mean and what are the expectations around healing?’
      Having met with people across all areas of the hospitals, Jeremy and Hans have been collecting conversations, stories, images and recordings to inform their work. Focusing on the inside/inside relationships as well as the inside/outside relationships, Hurts and Heals aims to express the breaking down of barriers between staff and patients; staff and staff; wards and wards.

      Engaging with people has not only helped Hans and Jeremy refine their ideas but it has also pushed them to challenge the way they think about their roles as artists in the ATD programme. Hans says, ‘There’s a big challenge from conversations about what happens to us in the process. Am I here just to deliver something or is there something more of myself I can give?’ Jeremy reflects, ‘How does art function in this role? What is the role of art here? I’m going to look more at that and actually bring my art more into the middle and tip my research on its head. Because I’ve been going out and deep into the NHS, into communities and now I’m going to go into me and say, “What does me as an artist think of all this and how that might impact and lay bare the process of art, my process of art?”’
      Drawing on Hans’s background as a sculptor, Hurts and Heals has so far collected hundreds of unique impressions in porcelain china from a wide range of people in the hospital community. Through public outreach visits, this strand of Hurts and Heals-  called Hospital Impressions- invites people to stop for a couple of minutes, take a couple of deep breaths and squeeze a ball of raw porcelain. After participants have created their impression in porcelain, they are asked to write down what the experience made them feel or think and this goes to create a physical artefact of an individual’s moment in time. Hans developed the idea for Hospital Impressions after a conversation with a nurse who shared with him ways in which patients have left emotional impressions on her and his own observations of the impressions people make passing through places, like lipstick on cups, doodles on paper or old postcards on noticeboards.
      How sculptural outputs might combine with Jeremy’s specialism as a theatre director for a final piece of Hurts and Heals is something the two are exploring.

      Last month, a workshop co-hosted by DCN fellow Susana Cámara Leret and ‘smeller’ Joy Milne, who has the extra-ordinary ability to smell Parkinson’s Disease, was held at the Alt-w LAB to explore ways in which smells encode memories. Attendees used pens and coloured pencils to document on a grid the memories, feelings and words evoked by 8 mysterious smell samples offered up to them by Susana.


      Susana prepares smell samples for workshop attendees.


      As each sample was handed to workshop attendees, they were reminded that smells are multi-layered: at first they may be offensive but keep taking the smell in slowly and they might find they change quite a bit. From human sweat to plant pheromones, molecules can be found in the composition of many everyday smells. As we establish associations to these, experiences from the medical setting might extend beyond the walls of the hospital, calling for other articulations in matters of care.


      Joy ‘The Sniffer’ Milne has the ability to smell Parkinson’s Disease


      The group talked about smells that brought on memories of old workplaces, a GP’s office, being on a farm as a child and those that evoked an emotion or the strange sensation of knowing a smell but being unable to conjure up the word to describe it. Seaweed, petrol, sweaty feet, garlic, cumin were some of the words attendees used to describe the 8 mystery smells. At the end of the workshop, everyone learned what they had been smelling all along: molecules found in types of human decay.


      A workshop attendee documents his memories and thoughts after smelling each sample.


      The aim of the DCN fellowships are to promote and highlight the working activity and research interests found in the DCN through a programme of dynamic art and science commissions. Development of work using current research practices is key to each fellowship in the programme. The fellowships seek to build relationships between artists, staff and external research partners to demonstrate best practice and contribute to dialogues about the benefits of creative practice in clinical environments.

      Two artist residencies which take as their starting points the relationships and experiences of hospital staff and patients and the impact and dynamics of hospital communities moving and evolving. A visual artist and a writer/director are working organically and relationally across four hospital sites identifying and initiating opportunities for creative dialogue to generate collaborative artistic and cultural projects.


      Hans K Clausen: “As a visual artist I am drawn to the artefacts and aesthetics that dominate hospital environments, from the ‘tools of the trades’ of health care to the visual noise of public information and the material palette of the institution. I’m also interested in the connections between people and place, the ways in which everyone leaves their mark, the unseen traces of human interactions and the importance and uniqueness of individuality amidst a culture that operates on averages, generalities and commonalities. This curiosity has so far led to Hospital Impressions; an art action which will collect hand-pressed impressions in fine porcelain from patients, staff and visitors across hospital sites capturing personal ‘relics of a moment’.”


      Example of Hospital Impressions, hand-pressed impressions in fine porcelain. Photo by Hans Clausen

      Example of Hospital Impressions, hand-pressed impressions in fine porcelain. Photo by Hans K Clausen

      Jeremy Weller: “As a writer and a film and theatre director I have been meeting with staff and patients, listening to their stories and looking for the meeting points between the NHS and the people who want its help. What is this story? What are their stories? The whole world coming through the door. Every story, every emotion, dramatic, compassionate, a very human story of people trying to help…and those seeking help. I hope to get beneath the surface of the relationships and dynamics that exist between people, communities and cultures and build something dramatic and authentic from these experiences.”


      Extract from Jeremy Weller’s notebook. Photo by Hans K Clausen


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