Austrian project raises dementia awareness through art
Aims to challenge and reframe societal understandings of dementia
Feel Dementia - Fokung Wirkus by Cornelia Bast
'Fokung Wirkus' by Cornelia Bast for Feel Dementia
An innovative art and design project to tackle public perception of dementia has been launched in Austria, supported by the
Austrian Science Fund FWF.
The three-year initiative - entitled D.A.S. Dementia. Arts. Society. - will see an interdisciplinary team led by Viennese
artist and researcher Ruth Mateus-Berr develop artistic, practice-oriented workshops that engage the public in the dementia
Mateus-Berr said the project will not only target people who have little day-to-day experience with dementia, but also those
living with the condition.
“Where social policy, nursing and medicine are at the end of their tether, strategies involving art and design may make people
with dementia see their own skills and situation in a new way,” she added.
In Europe alone, approximately 10 million people suffer from dementia with that figure expected to double by 2050.
People with the condition are often subject to feelings of confusion and helplessness, making everyday errands and appointments
difficult to fulfill.
The D.A.S. project aims to reduce the social stigma currently associated with dementia, which results in patients being more
likely to withdraw from society in order to avoid public anxiety and embarrassment.
Mateus-Berr believes that this new interdisciplinary approach, using art underpinned by a scientific basis, will encourage
more people to engage with, and seek, to understand the condition's difficulties.
“Interdisciplinarity works particularly well in the arts, if you don't shrink from asking questions about other disciplines,
such as medicine,” she said. “We have to learn to understand others so as to permit change.”
The D.A.S. Dementia. Arts. Society. research initiative was born out of master project Feel Dementia, by artist Cornelia Bast
and designer Antonia Eggeling, also of the Vienna University of Applied Arts.
Feel Dementia created an audio file that floods listeners with information and tasks and an art object - called Fokung Wirkus
- created by Bast.
Fokung Wirkus is a giant diver's helmet fashioned to restrict participants' field of vision that designed to mimic the sense
of overwhelming confusion often triggered by dementia.
Participants said the experience of the two interventions were like “having a nervous breakdown”, and their feedback was used
to create 'confusion logs' for further evaluation.