Artist in Residence «Settings of Dying – An interdisciplinary perspective 2020–2023»

Currently, a growing interest in the end of life and in death and dying can be observed in society. Experiences with terminal illnesses and with professional end-of-life care provided through palliative care, are being increasingly discussed in the media and are becoming a focus within various research fields. In the applied research project, ‘Settings of Dying’ , we combine formerly separate professional perspectives into an innovative, interdisciplinary approach.

Nine researchers contribute their expertise from cultural science, nursing research, the sociology of religion and design research. In cooperation with a practice partner, the Centre for Palliative Care at the Waid City Hospital in Zurich, we are examining the last phase of life of terminally ill patients. The following four fundamental components will be focused on: language, care, product and communication design, as well as religion. In collaboration with the practice partner, we also propose the redesign of communication materials and the design of care products, which should increase the scope of agency for dying persons, and promote their well-being.

The project should furthermore enrich the exchange between health professionals, specialists in religion and other professionals. The dying persons along with their relatives, will also be included as much as possible in this exchange. A video-performing artist working closely with the team develops artistic formats based on the findings of the research, which are aimed at the general public.

The artist Eva Wandeler is a regular guest in the research project. She complements the four perspectives with a free artistic approach to settings of dying, and focuses on the visual worlds of the dying. Imaginary images of dying are linked to the questions of: what kind of visual art can be found in palliative wards, how does it shape the rooms, according to which criteria is art commissioned or selected for palliative wards, and which notions of dying are inherent in these criteria?

The research on imaginary visual worlds and on art in palliative care is also being expanded upon to include the following material from the research project: linguistic images, images of visual communication, images of religious-spiritual objects, and information from dying people and their relatives regarding existing images. Wandeler, who, in her work, explores rituals in relation to things, spaces and materials, will then transfer these findings into artistic works, such as video performances. This will promote reflection regarding both the private and intimate moments of the dying process, as well as on social ideas about dying. In doing so, this will enable the different subtexts of dying (e.g. decay, pain) and the dominant references about images (images of nature, burning candles), to be artistically fathomed. The generated results are to then be presented and discussed at the project conferences and in palliative care facilities.