The Dispensary 2016: wooden objects, mechanical music boxes, furniture. 198cm x 70 x 70 cm. First@108 Public Art Award, Royal British Society of Sculptors and CW+
in 2015, Tabatha Andrews won the 'First@108' Public Art Award to make sculptures for Alzheimers and Dementia patients and their carers at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. The resulting work is a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ on wheels, incorporating a complex montage of colourful doors, shelves and boxes filled with visual, tactile and sonic objects designed to stimulate curiosity, trigger memories, and ultimately enhance cognitive function. Part tool-cabinet, part dressing-table, bureau or fridge, the sculpture appeals to conscious and unconscious memories on many levels.
It is our conscious memory that is most affected by Alzheimers and Dementia (the storage and processing of facts, events and language). Inspired by the Montessori method of using purposeful play as a means of working with our unconscious or ‘procedural’ memory, Andrews is working with all the senses in this sculpture. Touch is the primary sense experienced by the child, closely followed by hearing, and the objects in The Dispensary act as ‘transitional phenomena’, creating connections between inner and outer worlds and aiding communication and connection.
Andrews brought together two communities in the making of The Dispensary; the patients of Chelsea and Westminster hospital and the woodturners of Devon and Cornwall. Inspiration for many of the wooden objects came from workshops she ran on the Edgar Horne and Rainsford Mowlem wards, in which she combined poetry readings with a series of simple sculptural interactions. Each patient created their own Rorschach ink blots; drawings made through a chance process of dropping ink on paper, folding and opening it again to see the resulting shape and discuss the associations it stimulated. Andrews took the blots to the Tavistock Woodturners in Devon and turner David Trewin in Cornwall. Through a process of discussion and exchange between Andrews and the turners, objects grew into structures that stacked, rolled, spun, made percussive sounds or became tactile handles and finials that were attached to the cabinet.
With special thanks to turner Mark Hancock, the Tavistock Woodturners, and Steve Zaleski of STEM Bespoke furniture.
To see Liberty Smith's fascinating film about this project, click here