'Not only does God play dice, but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen' Stephen Hawkins'
Last Thursday at the Buddy Cafe in Salford, (working with people diagnosed with dementia and their carers) I brought in a set of blank dice to use as art materials. The idea was on the surface a straight forward one, for people in the group to write their date of birth on a side of the dice, in this way they would mark their existence, and simply make a record of who is in the group. As we are discussing dementia in this project, you can also read the idea as the condition of our health being a 'roll of the dice'.
Some of the participants had instant and easy recall of their D.O.B for others it was a real struggle, with care and humour we would find the year of birth, or an approximate year. It felt like some of the participants where recalling the numbers by rote, a test like asking someone their mobile phone number, 7 times table, or postcode.
I discussed the issue with Dr Caroline Swarbrick, who had been with us during the session. She explained: "you can't validate dates, if they get it wrong that's their reality. People often remember their D.O.B easier than their age, the short term memory goes first. Life events, years mean something. Alice, if she forgets something halfway through- for example her address, she will have to start again from the beginning, then she will get it. Memories are programmed in."
As miniature works of art, I am very pleased with them, there is a beauty in the shakiness of writing, some letters are un-readable, for me there is great poignancy in the attempts at recalling and forming these numbers, something most of us take for granted.