A collaboration with older people living with dementia. We all spent six months together, re-capturing their memories through art and poetry. Each person’s life story collection was gathered in a box containing poems, pictures, short conversations and recordings of interviews, plus prompt questions and ideas for carers. When memory struggles, the box is still there to help stimulate remembering. It is also an heirloom for family members.
But how do you tell a life? It’s a question that has vexed the great artists and writers. Variously and in random order Proust, Lyn Hejinian, Adolf Wolfli, Susan Hiller, James Joyce have played chase with the essence of being alive. All attempts must fail of course, but as Beckett said, the trick is to ‘Fail better.’
The life story books we’ve seen in care settings usually contain the basic facts of someone’s passage through society: details of marriage, children, place of birth, occupation, together with hobbies, dis/likes regarding TV and music and puddings and similar. But isn’t there more to tell? Or are bald facts actually the best memory triggers for people with dementia? These things certainly aren’t the common topics of conversation among the people we’ve met. We’ve kept returning in our chats to the touchstones of memory, usually set down in childhood, or moments of great change.
Funded by Arts Council England, many of these workshops took place in Bury, Greater Manchester. Work from this project was exhibited at Bury Art Museum and included in The Dark Would anthology of language art (ed. Davenport, 2013)
Blog about project: spaghettimaze
On-line portfolio arthur-and-marth
Falling leaves beautiful fields go with a jamjar and root for tiddlers spend all your time: leaves pressed out in a book taken off a tree. Ivy 21 September 2012