Friday, 2 March 2012

House of Cards

Last Thursday at the Buddy Cafe, Salford (for people diagnosed with dementia and the carers) we created a new series of poems, recorded striking new conversations with group members and started playing with visual ideas for exhibitions.

When starting a new project it often takes a while to discover what form the visual will take. We uterlise materials and content that relate strongly to the environment we are working in, the people we are working with and any brief we have been given. The brief here is to work with people diagnosed with dementia (and their carers) and to identify the strengths and the weaknesses in the services that are provided for them. The environment is the wonderful Cricket Club, full of the fantastic staff and volunteers from Age Concern Salford filling the day up with cups of tea, rounds of toast, nourishing lunch and loads of activity. For the men this means conversations between games of cards, pool, domino, draughts, cups of tea...The women's activities are often based around reminiscence, stimulated by objects, photos and games provided by Age Concern.

 1st experiments with adapted playing cards

I've always had a love of playing cards myself and the strong visual imagery of card design, so it seems a great place to start adapting playing cards with words, numbers and imagery expressing snippets of experience of life with dementia.  The Tower or House of Cards idea seems to fit in well with the stories we are hearing. It looks solid enough, but one breeze, sneeze, cough or wrong move and it collapses!

 1st experiments with adapted playing cards

Everyone is happy with conversation, but to take it to the next level- creating art and poetry takes some subtle manoeuvring, you have to find ways to take people with you. Thankfully as ever the majority of people in the group did humour me and had a go at writing a short piece of text on a blank card. I got some quizzical looks when asking people to join in, but when the results began to emerge some great responses. There is an art to finding ways for strong source material to be reduced to its very essence, like any good project it needs, preparation, care, reflection, space for trial & error and plenty of brews. 

writing in playing card

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