Brynhild Bye-Tiller
 
 
Artistic practice
 

Participatory projects

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  Women in Health- and Care Work
   
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Women in Health - and Care Work (2006-2008)
 
 
How to highlight the positive qualities of being a woman in care work? 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 lense?
Participation & Public art & Photo

How to highlight the positive qualities of being a woman in care work? 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 lense?

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 (2006-2008). By thinking and talking about their profession. 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 in the final exhibition. The picture frames has today ten years later been given a new content, which is in line with the philosophy behind participatory art.

Parallel to the participation I moved into the institution and started taking photographies of the participants in their work environment. From different departments like dementia, nursing homes, open care, cleaning, kitchen, laundry and administration. Based on a broad definition of who is a care worker. So the employees were both in front of and behind the camera lense. It was an intensive process of finding a way into a large health institution where the majority of employees were in a hurry and basically not interested in art. Some were on the early shift and others on 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 the documentary and for the participatory content.

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 the survey I did. 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.

WOMEN IN HEALTH - AND CARE WORK was one of the first art projects to examine participatory art in the region. Criteria for quality and evaluation of this kind of aesthetics could be 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).

In WOMEN IN HEALTH - AND CARE WORK both the process and the artistic object is emphasized. A duality that characterizes my artistic practice. Both documentary photography (object) and participation (process based art). The project focused on art's instrumental role through participation, participatory methodologies and exploring documentary within the contemporary art field. The project was a 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. In the art field there has been, and still is, a debate about gradations of instrumentalisation - where art are considered as an engine in society, 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 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.

It was an interdisciplinary collaboration between me 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 who do not get what they are entitled to, heavy workloads, part-time jobs and scarce budgets. This kind of jobs is often the largest employers of women in rural district.

 

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EXHIBITION   Documents:
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

See press

Texts on the floor and window (PDF)

More quotes from the participants (NO)

The project was shown at: The Culture– and health conference: “Good life terms-Culture and Health”, Stjørdal (NO) 2009, Norwegian Nurses Organization Conference, Nidarøhallen, Trondheim (NO) 2008, Nurses Conference, Dampsaga Cultural Center, Steinkjer (NO) 2008.

Venue: Common areas and the hallways of the institution Namdalseid helsetun.  

 

Art work: Photographies and text.

Details: 20 large-format photographies in color. 6 medium sized photographies in color. 60 small format photographies 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 me 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.