This afternoon I saw the opening of the exhibit named "The 7,024th Patient: Stories of OPen Heart Surgery and Recovery". It was one of the start up activities at the International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry.
Jennifer Lapum, a registered nurse, now academic at Ryerson University, spearheaded this unique exhibit.
I walked through the exhibit twice...it is a thing of wood, steel, plastic, and fabric. You wind your way deeper into the center...as you read and think about the experience of heart surgery...and then unwind at the other end.
In her talk she described the process. They conducted pre- and post-interviews with heart surgery patients, who also kept a journal during the experience. They created composite stories of patient's experiences from the analyzed data, developing what they termed "zones of experience", and then created poetry from the stories.
This work began with Jennifer's dissertation, but this exhibit itself was developed by a team of researchers that combined medical and arts specialists. The question they asked themselves was: How can we help people to understand the experience of heart surgery? What does it feel like to move through this experience? How can an artistic rendering increase the empathy and understanding of this experience for medical personnel and others?
The designer was also there to talk about her use of materials, styles, etc. as a way of developing the viewer's experience. She spoke of the importance she felt of the viewer winding through the experience and how fabric lent this feeling. She tried to give viewers the sense of the hardness of technology and the softness of the human body. She spoke of the use of 'hints of color' within 'the rational white space'.
Jennifer concluded by reading aloud some of the poetry that is printed on the fabric of the exhibit. It was a very different experience for me to hear the poetry not just read it. It came through to me with a new power. I wonder what it would be like to add audio to different parts of the exhibit.
This was a great official beginning of the conference for me. Now I am heading back for the opening remarks, keynote speakers, and barbecue...I am putting my exhibit up tonight in the space adjoining the heart exhibit. It's a bit daunting!