During my time at Konstepidemin, I walked the bounds of the site a few times and given the fact that the residency is sited on an old epidemic hospital, I decided to use my time here to focus on researching restorative environments.
I find London stimulating but most of the time, from a sensory perspective, completely overwhelming. I’ve spent most of the last 8 months sitting in an office on the 14th floor of which directly overlooks Elephant and Castle roundabout – one of the busiest in London. There is a main fire station on that roundabout and the ambient noise level can be incredibly grating, especially when you are trying to concentrate!
It’s a relief to be up on a hill, with very little noise and a few scraps of forests to walk about. There is much anecdotal evidence of the benefits of interaction with the more than human world, whether that be in the form of gardening, walking, or interacting with pets etc. The scientific data is following on with the availability of low(er) cost EEG monitors which can be easily utilized by the enthusiast and professional.
When I walk in a natural landscape, I feel immediately immersed and distracted by the complex colour palette, the new smells, whether it be Wild Garlic or leaf mould, the depth and range of sounds, and more recently the physical sensations of wind on the face etc.
Soft Fascination as defined by Basu, Kaplan et al as ” the interaction of both attentional effort and mental bandwidth and hypothesize that the restorative potential of everyday activities can be categorized based on this interaction.” abstract
The Kaplans in the seminal text The experience of nature: a psychological perspective (1989) explore the difference between Hard Fascination, ie: watching television, as an activity which demands full attention and that has little room for exploration or creativity with Soft Fascination which allows wandering.
In a world which often demands cognitive overload, the ability to engage in restorative activities is incredibly important!
I’ve had the misfortune in spending a fair bit of time in hospitals in 2018. Earlier in the year for myself with pneumonia and a heart arrhythmia from which I am fully recovered, and to visit a young family member who has recently had urgent and major surgeries.
There are massive programs which put art in the corridors in hospitals and there are supporting studies which report the benefit of visual stimulation.
But – most patients who are chronically ill will only get a glance of these artworks being pushed from one invasive procedure to another.
I also think of the time that I spent as a reading companion to an incredibly bright woman with Dementia. The staff crisis in care homes in most parts of the UK means that most elderly people with limited mobility and complex care needs have very little time outdoors.
There is a huge market for games which improve attention through mindfulness based therapy, but I want to create an artwork which explores the application of soft fascination in indoor environments.
I started by creating an alter eye to experience colours in nature…
Project Update – 14/01
I’ve got the sensor working and outputting ok and I have been manually collecting data for the last week or so.
I have bought a data logger so I can go mobile or even install outside.
Now I’m going to create 3 new prototypes – one for a gallery setting/outdoor install and home version.