Monday 21st January, 11am-12.30pm-Observing and meeting with InMind ( Art, coffee and conversation sessions for people living with dementia)
Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Picadilly, London. W1J OBD
This session started with an introduction, then the workshop leader asked questions about the painting 'Tea in the Studio' by Arthur George Walker. The leader had deliberately covered up the title and artists name.she would ask what an object was in the painting and ask people to describe the objects. questions like 'when sculptures are outside what are they called?''what is another word for torso'? there was a lot of recalling , repeating phrases and pauses to let people think of the words.She also gave handouts of the painting and close ups of the sculptures. There was a lot of focus on the sculpture at the back and debate about whether it was a man or a women, it turned out to be Dame Louise Aldridge Brookes, the first female surgeon in the uk. So there was history to be reminded of as well.Then they talked about the tea and the leader produced a tea cup and handed around loose tea leaves to smell and a linen cloth to touch so all the senses were activated.
The session was cleverly thought out and I will definitely be using these methods when I go into the care home to work with the residents there.
I also spoke with a lady who works in research for Dementia and works in Southfields, so I will be in contact with her.
An Investigation into how memory is recalled through daily objects from the last 50 years in the care home setting in 2019.
Aim of Project
The aim of this project was to start conversations about collective memories in the care home environment using common household objects from the 1970s as a trigger.
In the 1920s Maurice Halbwachs talked about how daily objects ‘stand about us a mute and motionless society.’(F Alcan,1925) it is the interpretation that people place onto the objects that give their life meaning as a society by offering a cohesive permanence.
Halbwach’s reasoning for why groups stay together even if the group moves house or towns and does not recognise their new surroundings is that they find common ground in their collective memories of objects thus offering them stability.
I was moved when he wrote ‘Even after the priests and nuns from port Royal were expelled, nothing was really affected so long as the buildings of the abbey stood and those who remembered hadn;t died.
My research is an investigation into how having these conversations using the objects highlights their collective memories which in turn makes the group more cohesive. I also recorded these findings to enable the younger generation to access them.
The Barbican, London is doing this with their recent exhibition ‘Unclaimed’ by The Liminal Space (11 Feb—3 May 2019) taking research from University College, London, The Centre for Aging better and interviews from the aging population, this exhibition shows everyday objects from older peoples lives over their life time, alongside the owners stories , this reflection on their lives highlights the modern ageing experience.
I delivered three workshops in the Dementia unit at St Luke’s care home, Reading.
1st workshop 1st Feb, 2.45pm -3.45pm
For the 1stworkshop I took along 2 memory boxes , the first a Reading Borough Council memory box with shopping items the 1970s:.
The 2nd box was my own collection of objects which were donated from the public circa 1970 measuring jug, screw driver, jelly mould, tobacco tin, sugar tin.
2nd workshop 11th Feb 2.45-3.45pm
For the 2ndworkshop I took along just the found objects as the first session I felt there were too many objects to focus on.
screen printed the photographs of the objects and made prints on silk, calico and muslin to show how memories can be vague or strong. I then made these images into bunting.
3rd workshop 10th May 2019 11am
As in my last 2 visits I handed out the objects again and discussed them. Then I passed around the bunting.
Background Additional Research
Attended a reminiscence workshop on the 11th March at Reading Museum
Attended a Dementia art session ant the Royal Academy on the 21stJanuary
The bunting will be displayed at Museum of English Rural life during Dementia week ( 20-25 May 2019)
To approach institutions and art galleries with a view to displaying the finished art work
To apply for funding to develop the idea further.
Out of the all the workshops the most successful one in bringing out conversations around the objects was the 3rd workshop on the 11th May , this could have been down to a few factors
By passing around the bunting this helped the residents to feel joined together and part of the activity in a way that was missing in the previous workshops when the objects were handled more individually.
The workshop also had a new member, who was the most confident, this really made the group dynamic different from the previous workshops
The session was in the morning whereas the others were in the afternoon, this could have played a part in how alert they were.
People with dementia can dip in and out of it sometimes within seconds making communication unpredictable.
All 3 groups had a similar gender make up, around 10 women and 1 or 2 men and all the residents were white British.
This project demonstrated that objects facilitated reminiscences in the care home setting of St Luke’s care home.
This brought the group closer together through their collective societal memory. I think using the bunting as a prop with the objects printed also enabled them to feel part of the group.
Halbwachs,Maurice.’Les cadres sociaux de la memoire.Les Travaux de L’Annee Sociologique( Paris:F.Alcan, 1925):trans.Lewsi A.Coser, On Collective Memory.( Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1992)