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‘Where it Heals’ Public Engagement Workshop

‘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