Research Rationale

Browett’s research enters into a journey that connects with the notion of lived human experience, and to objects that mark significant life events. Taking inspiration from a philosophical approach, he came to appreciate the powerful symbolism of seeds as a carrier of markers that re-contact us with nature and observed that when under threat, change occurs in the natural world to transform into something that will survive and become more beautiful, offering evidence that change can be an enhancing and transformative process.

He engaged with the central argument of Darwin’s theory that suggests the sheer fertility of nature creates a struggle for existence and in any such struggle those lucky enough to survive must have profitable peculiarities; that Darwin described as Fortuitous Novelties. His interest lies in exploring how such a theory can be attached to the sequence of events that make up our individual lives, and takes the position that it is the personal moments that provide the measure and meaning to life and are the events that truly shape us. The rites of passage, of birth, childhood, love, old age, and death are the emotional milestones making human experience and these moments through the passage of time, take on a special significance and become the memories that we treasure the most. As life becomes history, stories fade and become forgotten and objects represent a tangible means to fix memory onto history and speak of lives lived.

Exploring the context of human rites of passage Browett concludes that rites that engender positive change are celebrated with vigour in our society, but enforced changes in our lives are often stigmatised and covered up by denial. He therefore elected through his practice to create meaningful objects that aim be cathartic in situations that are considered to be a crisis and aimed to produce objects that would stimulate, provoke and excite and aimed to test them with people. Recently these outcomes have become founded within a ‘real-life’ healthcare setting through a collaborative venture between Arts for Health at MMU, and Derbyshire Primary Care Trust, offering the opportunity to develop a number of devices to support therapies concerning the wellbeing of patients experiencing Dementia at the Riverside Ward in Newholme Hospital, Bakewell. Dementia is a growing issue for our aging society, and the dread and stigma surrounding the disease contribute significantly to the difficult conditions of living with it, and through changes to our attitudes we can reduce this fear and find positive meanings.

Through the support of the highly motivated staff at Newholme Hospital NHS Dementia Assessment Unit a very practical working relationship has developed and all concerned enthusiastically embraced this project. What has been witnessed is that no matter how much the cognition of those experiencing dementia has been diminished, building their imaginative capacity through being fully engaged in an activity vitally increases well-being. Imagination, improvisation and playfulness are all evident through engagement with these objects in individuals who during the activities became free of some of their symptoms. The favourable response has suggested they are of value as therapeutic tools, for individuals who struggle to express themselves to others and this project brings to light the immediate work that can be done to enrich the lives of those experiencing Dementia. The work demonstrated improvements in mood and the quality of life for people with dementia, and also improved the quality of social interactions between patients, care staff and families.

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