‘Managing Expectations’: unpicking what we expect of artists in healthcare

SHAW, Becky (2015). ‘Managing Expectations’: unpicking what we expect of artists in healthcare. In: Design4Health, Sheffield Hallam University, 13-16 July 2015. (In Press)

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When artists work in healthcare there are a range of spoken and unspoken expectations regarding their purpose. These include: to bring beauty or improvement to environments considered unhealthy or unattractive; to engage those considered to be short of social interaction; or to help those considered vulnerable to express themselves. Alongside these ways of ‘doing good’ there are other conventions particular to fine art histories, including practices described as ‘institutional critique’; an often Brechtian strategy, to expose hidden political and social structures. All of these strategies: both the ‘critical’ and the ‘ameliorative’ start with the expectation that the artist can identify a target and deliver some type of improvement, generated by their ‘special’ position as outside the situation. Part of the mythology implicit in this is that the artist does this because they are atavistic and that making art is inherently ‘good’.

In reality, the process of working as an artist in a healthcare context can be messy, uncertain and tense: unspoken and spoken contradictory expectations are internalised by both artist, ‘recipients’ and healthcare staff, affecting what is produced and also what is considered ethical or appropriate. Instead of denying or ‘managing’ these expectations, I propose a way to explore them, using the open-ended processes of art practice.

Drawing on two live works: ’The Generosity Project’ made at Amstelrade Centre for People with Physical Disabilities in Amstelveen (NL) and ‘Transfer’, made for Manchester Royal Infirmary and Castlefield Gallery, I will explore the relationship between artist, healthcare provider and patient. I propose a way of working that does not perform ideals, or offer solutions but, drawing from Pierre Bourdieu, seeks to capture the social process of healthcare. Through these two works it becomes clear that aesthetics and atavism are currents that run through our notions not only art, but healthcare itself.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Becky Shaw
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2015 10:34
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2015 10:34
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10454

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