NORWAY: How to meet employees in a large health care institution? How to get to know them and make them relax in front of the camera lens? How to highlight being a woman in care work?
WOMEN IN HEALTH- AND CARE WORK was an interdisciplinary collaboration between artist Brynhild Bye-Tiller and female healthcare employees in Namdalseid (NO). The project was initiated by the municipality, to advance the traditional female professions in health and care work because they were perceived, according to the municipality, to have a lower status and were often presented negatively in the media. "Older people do not receive what they are entitled to, heavy workloads, part-time jobs and scarce budgets." This kind of institutions are often the largest employers of women in a rural district. The project was based on a broad definition of a care worker or a carer.
WOMEN IN HEALTH - AND CARE WORK was the first professional art project to examine participatory methodologies based on photography in the region.
Participation from the employees
All employees at Namdalseid helsetun, a health care institution in Norway, were given the chance to participate in the project WOMEN IN HEALTH- AND CARE WORK. By thinking and talking about their profession. The employees were both in front of and behind the camera lense. 20 large-format photographs in color and 6 medium sized photographs in color where presented in the final exhibition. By adding their own material in the final exhibition. Initially they were presented with tasks like; "Take a photo of what care work means to you". All contributions were collected and presented. 60 small format photographs and 20 quotes from the participants was presented on a shelf in the public area. Ten years later (2016), the picture frames was given new content with colour photographs with local motifs, but on the same shelf, which is in line with the philosophy behind participatory art.
Artistic work – Brynhild Bye-Tiller
Parallel to the participation Bye-Tiller moved into the institution and started shooting photographs of the employees in their work environment. From different departments like dementia, nursing homes, open care, cleaning, kitchen, laundry and administration. It was an intensive process of finding the way into a large health institution where the majority of employees were in a hurry and basically not interested in art. Some worked on the early shift and others on the late shift. By moving into the physical therapy room I followed the staff with my camera, both early in the morning and late in the evening. An important part of the work was to create good relations with everyone involved, which was necessary for both the documentary and for the participatory content.
A positive ripple effect
During the project, absence due to sickness amongst employees went down from 20% to 13 %. This had never happend before at the institution. Later on it returned to the original level. Why? One of several possible reasons could be that the employees felt seen and appreciated according to an unformal survey. Or another reason could be the press coverage which was good. Or was it due to the Hawthorne* effect or participatory methodologies?
* Hawthorne effect refers to the phenomenon that was documented in connection with Hawthorne studies in the US in the 1920s, namely that to be examined in itself produces behavioral changes which evaporates again when the investigation is over.
Challenges with socially engaged art – Art and instrumentalisation
The project was part of the local municipality participation in FOLK2 - a five-year regional initiative on cultural initiatives to provide citizens with improved health, including through ART WORK, coordinated from Nord-Trøndelag county. The project focused on art's instrumental role through participation, participatory methodologies and exploring documentary within the contemporary art field. In the art field there has been and still is a debate about instrumentalisation - where art are considered as an engine in society development, where art becomes a part of the creative industry. Socially engaged art projects are often incorporated in politically motivated initiatives and programs such as FOLK2 giving art assignments that is far outside its range and at the expense of the autonomy of art. Traditionally artists and politicians have different views on what art should be. On the other hand socially engaged art gives art institutions an opportunity to interact with the public in new ways. Curator Mary Jane Jacob (US) says: "The question is not instrumentality or not, but instrumentality for what purpose. Art can and should be an instrument for social change.
Evaluation of/quality of social aesthetics
In WOMEN IN HEALTH - AND CARE WORK both the process and the physical objects are emphasized. A duality that has characterized Bye-Tiller's artistic practice. Criteria for quality and evaluation of this kind of aesthetics can be the quality of relationships. The degree of change in the relations. The extent to which there has been a social change. Being a participant is about being conscious and being enriched. "Community art is for many unknown as art, where the intellectual property markers, objects, experiences and attitudes are the core of art. The deeply human feelings that is not always so easy to catch. It may be politically, existentially or compassion", says artist and researcher Hannah Kaihovirta (FI).
| Exhibition period: September 1st - 30 th 2007
Invitation to the opening of exhibition 2007
About KVINNER I HELSE OG OMSORGSARBEID (2007-2008) (NO) (Text)
Project information 2007 (NO)
Nedgang i sjukefravær, 15.01.2008 (NO)
More photos, thumbnails
Newspaper add 2007
Presentation of the project Jægtvolden april 2007 PDF
See SOUNDSLIDE Length 2:56 min
Survey I made by the artist
Survey II FOLK2
Texts on the floor and window (PDF)
More quotes from the participants (NO)
|Venue: Common areas and the hallways of the institution Namdalseid helsetun.
Exhibitions outside the institution:
- The Culture– and health conference: “Good life terms-Culture and Health”, Scandic Hell Stjørdal, 2009
- Norwegian Nurses Organization Conference, Nidarøhallen, Trondheim, 2008
- Nurses Conference, Dampsaga Cultural Center, Steinkjer, 2008.
Art work: Photographs and text.
Details: 20 large-format photographs in color. 6 medium sized photographs in color. 60 small format photographs taken by the participants was presented on a shelf in the walking area. 20 quotes from conversations with the participants was presented in picture frames in the shelfs.
In 2017 one text written by the artist about the project was added to the collection at the institution.
The project was initiated by Lisbeth Lein the head of Culture in Namdalseid municipality and developed together with artist.
Working group: Lisbeth Lein, head of Culture in Namdalseid municipality, Marit Hatland, head of Health and Care department in Namdalseid municipality, Anne Berit Tørring, staff representative and me.
Partners: Namdalseid municipality the department of Culture and health and Care Namdalseid, Namdalseid Art Association, Nurses organisation in North Trøndelag County.
Supported by: the Norwegian Arts Council, Norwegian Visual Artists, Nord-Trøndelag county, FOLK2, Nurses organisation and Namdalseid Art Association.