[logo – Ryder]
1. The project
Here’s the TLDR in case you can’t wait / don’t have the time / like to have things said.
#medicineonthewalls (see the PRSC newsletter above) are looking for collaborators in other cities around the world.
We want to write a sentence, which responds to the current pandemic, a word or so per wall per city, all on the same day, and to timelapse (with sound) the process. (Time zones and local stay home policies may complicate things.)
We want to make a statement in response to the current situation that is: literally international, demonstrating the solidarity and community which is important at the moment, and which is likely to become more so; which demonstrates the variety of perspectives within that solidarity and community; and which leverages graphic medicine’s ability to appeal to less mainstream audiences to good healthcare ends.
If that’s enough for you – read no further and get in touch! (firstname.lastname@example.org and @UoBrisIBAMH for more details.) But you may want to check you’re ok with some of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ details of the plan, and share our concern not to add in any way to the work of the health services. Most of those details get explained below.
[logo – Decay]
2. Background: Wall 1
The #medicineonthewalls project began last summer. The students on the intercalated BA in Medical Humanities here at Bristol have an annual exhibition of their creative work in June. Recently it’s been growing in ambition. This year it was going to be part of a week-long Festival (Medicine360.co.uk) until COVID-19 came along; last year, we had a more select choice of speakers, one of whom was Dr Ian Williams (of this parish), to talk about Graphic Medicine.
The exhibition space had a long external wall – enticingly strip-shaped — owned by PRSC and regularly painted by local street artists. It seemed a good idea to ask Ian if he would like to design a piece of his own for exhibition on that outside wall. He did a design based around The Lady Doctor, with a Graphic Medicine message at its heart. You can catch the wallbeing painted by Benoit / Object000 on www.arte.tv, in a programme on Bristol and Banksy. We liked the design so much we put it on a mug [photo?]; and there’s now been a second batch fired if anyone wants one.
I was doing the timelapse and watched the design painted. I was struck by the amount of interaction there was with passers-by. Sometimes this was directly with Benoit, but often with the images themselves. Some of this was caught on a mic I’d set up to catch something of the ‘place’. (The music on the video is by Will Irving, an iBAMH graduate and music producer.) This interaction owed a lot to the location. Stokes Croft is an area of many hostels and where there a rough-sleepers; much of the commenting and viewing was being done by people from these communities. The wall – this wall — was a non-hostile bit of their built environment they valued. Painting walls, it was clear, is a complicated activity, at the heart of which sits the image.
3. Wall 2: First plan
Painting Wall 1 made it clear that what we were doing was more than an effective way of getting a message across – especially in Bristol, with its thriving street art scene. Local networks of spotters soon had the wall in circulation on social media, walking tours of the area had the wall as one of their stops, the University tweeted the timelapse through their main account, and so on.
So a project was put together, using the same team, to see if we could develop what we thought we had seen –the wall as potential medical intervention. The next step was to do more walls, and to make the community–aspect more central. This time the artist would work with a particular community group to produce a design. The original plan was to work with three groups: recovering addicts, ward nurses, and junior doctors. The street that the wall is in more or less leads to the main city hospital, and is used by many NHS workers. Hopefully the collaboration would offer insights as to how the various groups saw themselves in relation to treatment received and treatment given, and these would be shared with the public in general through the painting, which would also be a painting which changed a little bit of the fabric of the world they knew – at the least, some-sort of recognition, for a little time.
In February, an application for funding was successful. Then the pandemic arrived. Social distancing meant that community engagement as had been envisaged was out. We were not sure whether we still had funding. Ryder, Decay, uncredited, 3DOM and SEPR were, though, willing to work just for the cost of their paint. They repackaged the official ‘Stay Home’ slogan for a rather different audience, getting it into circulation, keeping it fresh, and lendingtheir weight to a message in communities that can be mistrustful of official interventions of all sorts.
The decision to add an element of repetition was important: the 3 versions of ‘Stay In’ turned the wall into a comic strip, and introduced concerns around duration and perspective. It was also another way of demonstrating the diversity within the support of a single message or position – and, of course, each statement of the message was a little different. Changing the final phrase, to ‘Love the NHS’, offered the panels in retrospect as a sentence, as picked up on the opening and closing credit sequences of the timelapses we began to put out.
[logo – 3dom and Sepr]
4. Can you help with Wall 3?
What we’d like to do next is to scale our sentence UP — with partners in other countries.The message at the moment (or one of the messages, in these in between times) needs to be one of international community and solidarity, and by using several walls, in several cities, to write out one sentence (longer than could fit on any single wall) we hope to show those qualities of community and solidarity in action.
So, if you can help with some of the skills needed above – painting, organizing, timelapsing, video-editing – and have, ideally :
1. A wall that is regularly painted;
2. A wall that is integrated into a street / street art community;
3. A wall that is visible en-route to a hospital or somewhere health professionals / carers / the vulnerable work and live;
4. A wall where you can paint without endangering passers-by or yourself;
— the reasons behind all of which desirables should now be clear —
then #medicineonthewalls would love to hear from and collaborate with you.
When we’ve a sense of the number of people and places wanting to be involved, the length of the sentence we can write will become clearer. The language will most likely be English, in the first instance – though the other likely contender would be Spanish. The hope would be to do a series of sentences in different languages, drawing attention to our very different experiences and responses to the pandemic.
ps The images from the walls that are used to break up this text are available for download HERE — more details @UoBrisIBAMH