From Anaesthetic to Aesthetic in Medicine

2011 ‘Beyond the Evidence Base: From Anaesthetic to Aesthetic in Medicine’. (Images, participatory acts, discussion) ‘I walked through corridors…I wondered and I wandered. The more intensely I observed, the more I became absorbed by the deadness, the emptiness, the sense of alienation, of mortification. Disorientated, I feared the slippage, the ‘suction of infinity’. Vertiginous and toxic in its pull, was this a space to be horizontal or stay vertical? Which way would one be pulled? What is it like to come in here, to loose one’s grip on the earth? The coolness of the white chair. The door – into a room of blue sky’ ‘I wouldn’t demand a lot of my doctor’s time: I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps 5 minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once, be bonded with me for a brief space, survey my soul as well as my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way.’ (Broyard 1992) ‘Since technology deprives me of the intimacy that is my illness, makes it not mine but something that belongs to science, I wish my doctor could somehow re-personalize it for me..the connotation of going beyond the science into the person is all I’m asking.’ (Broyard 1992)

Beyond the Evidence Base: from Anaesthetic to Aesthetic in Medicine – Performances:

Medicine is full of emotive and ‘soulful’ images. Not only those we witness with our eyes, but those we picture in our mind’s eye along with individual thoughts, feelings and sensations.  Our imagination is very rich. What  happens when we attend to these inner images, use our powers of perception and stay in touch with our intuition? What happens when we pay attention to our dis-ease, our pain and our pleasure? 
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has just published a thesis on ‘Intelligent Kindness: Reforming the Culture of Healthcare’ (Ballatt and Campling 2011). New ways of seeing and attending to our powers of perception are timely. Maybe aesthetic appreciation and artistic processes can aid re-view and insight to facilitate more humane and compassionate care. Here, images and a short participatory piece are used as ‘tools’ for stirring the imagination and generating discussion. Helena Fox MA Social Sculpture, Oxford Brookes University 2011. PhD 2012 – current. Participatory work shared at:
1.Science Oxford, Oxford. 29th September 2011
2.Hospital Therapists. Nightingale Hospitals, London. 26th October 2011
3. Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress, Liverpool. 10th July 2012
4. At ‘Environmental Utterances’. Conference at Falmouth College School of Arts. 2nd Sept 2012
5. ‘The Patient’, Interdisciplinary.Net Lisbon March 2013
6. At “Making Change Happen  – a 100 years in Psychiatry” Oxford Psychiatry and Philosophy Group, St Catherine’s College, Oxford June 2013
7. International Human Sciences Conference – Creative Methodologies. Aalborg. August 2013
8. As a poster session at Berlin October 2013
9.As a workshop “From Anaesthetic to Aesthetic in the Clinic”, London Mindfulness Practitioners Group. December 2013
10. University of Hertfordshire, School of Creative Arts: Art Talk Series 2013-“Impact”, – Mini workshop/participatory piece with BA, MA and Art Therapy students.
11. To be continued…..
There is a catalogue of images available or images on vimeo – please enquire here
Case Notes (A Reflective Journal)

‘One can become locked in one’s own illness – institutionalised, detached by it, not reaching out. The healthcare worker needs to reach in to the human being. In my day, we were always taught that the person comes first’ (Retired Sister, Cardiology)

2012 – Current: This work continues with research in an arts-led PhD at Oxford Brookes University, Social Sculpture Research Unit  “What IS this territory I’m working in? – ‘Aesthetics’ in healthcare?

An instance of what I mean could be found in, say, the small yet transformative action of a nurse who takes time to make, sit down and drink  hot chocolate at bed-time with her patient. It’s much more than just the stirring of ingredients in the cup but alchemical nourishment, sensed magic for the soul – memories wishes, dreams are shared which could possibly even then be asked for….” Reflective Journal (2013 HF)  

2014 – Current “Bathe” – An new aesthetic participatory work  – which draws our attention to how we sense the human encounter.

This is one  component in a series of innovative processes for re-viewing aspects of healthcare. These are being designed as reflective spaces for use by healthcare workers.

2016 – Onwards: Recruiting now for healthcare workers & students to try these out! 



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