29 March: ART-KNOWLEDGE #2
Arts & Health: Debate About Artistic Research & Cultures of Care
ARIAS & KNAW
Focused on arts and health, the second instalment of the KNAW & ARIAS Art-Knowledge lecture series took place on March 19th, bringing together Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, Rachel Spronk and Paul Gomes to explore how artistic research and cultures of care intersect.
Moderated by Patricia Pisters, the evening began with German artist Yvonne Dröge Wendel and her introduction to her work De Coupé, an installation in the form of a real life train compartment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. With seats that do not face each other and countryside footage outside the window, ‘De Coupé’ explores the idea of “doing nothing.” Reminiscing about the initial steps of the project, Wendel spoke of how they started out with by observing the old patients in the nursing homes to answer the question: “What do old people want to do?”
Focusing on patients that were heavier cases who had difficulty with simple daily tasks, Wendel explained that they set out to explore the idea of “doing nothing”, specifically the most pleasant, beautiful, accepted form of doing nothing, with as little input as possible. Describing ‘De Coupé’ as a “calming experience”, Wendel shed light on the logic behind the artwork, offering a behind the scenes look at the challenges of bringing art into a care space. Her presentation concluded with a question to the audience: how do complex art projects like De Coupé find institutional embedding?
Wendel was followed by Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, who began with an anecdote featuring Nobel winning surgeon Werner Forssmann, who developed a procedure that allowed cardiac catheterization by self-experimenting. Inspired by Forssmann’s story, Lopez began working on her most recent project ‘Punctum’ – with which she aims to explore and question the limitations of her body by self-experimenting, by way of using a medical set-up to exteriorize the circulatory system. Lopez continued by expanding upon how self-experimentation can radically rearrange and change certain conventions, allowing us to question their corporeal normativization in the medical world.
The third and final contribution of the evening was by Rachel Spronk and Paul Gomes. A professor of anthropology and a film director respectively, the duo’s collaboration zeroed in on the story of a leper colony in Nigeria with the underlying themes of poverty, conflict and migration. Spronk began by remarking on how Africa is often portrayed in a negative light in the mass media worldwide. Explaining that they set out to change that outlook, Spronk detailed how their “medical mission” came together by painting a picture of the remote, small village and its residents — who could be regarded as ghostlike castaways at the first glance, but have managed to thrive socially and form a new community of their own, forming intra-ethnic and intra-religious bonds.
Gomes, whose work explores personal issues, migration and the notion of “home”, went on to explain how the focus of their story switched to the clinic in the leper colony, which, through the efforts of its dedicated staff, turned itself into a general hospital. Supplementing their story with various types of footage from the clinic, Gomes remarked upon the intricacies of representing concrete issues of life and death, as well as producing work that avoids stereotyping its subjects.