Creating a bridge between westernized and native medicine


This is the first thesis proposal draft. The artifacts (drum and ECG) has since changed.:

Poor housing conditions has resulted in 71% of Aboriginal people moving off of the reserve. Many of these people have relocated to urban centers, such as Toronto. Despite being the original inhabitants to Canada, their customs are foreign in a colonized setting. Healthy cohabitation must emphasize approaches that reconcile culture differences by highlighting aboriginal and western customs. The field of medicine presents one area of critical interest in creating a hybrid environment. Sickness is an intimate and desperate time in anyone’s life. By integrating native practices into the applications of western medicine, two disparately different nations can build on the discoveries of the other and theoretically create an improved healing environment.
For my piece, I will be creating an interactive time-based sculpture that includes artifacts from the western and aboriginal culture. The purpose of the interaction will be to heal by creating a ceremonial space. Through collaborative efforts, the social aspect of healing will decrease stress in the patient, boosting the immune system resulting in faster recovery. Research into the aesthetics of the piece will be ongoing using a seeker strategy. Beethy’s piece, Anxiety, is an example of how the sick element will be represented.
  The juxtaposed artifacts and image of a sick person will lure participants into the vicinity. An electrocardiogram (ECG) will be used to represent the western medical aspect. A drum, used in medicinal ceremonies, will be used to represent the native american aspect. The placement of the ECG above the drum will provide a beat to mimic. After three consecutive beats that follow the ECG beat, the element behind the interactive pieces changes. What starts as a charred image of a person transforms. The person heals by rebuilding the areas that have been burnt away.  The participant is given the option to continue the drum beat until the sick image is completely transformed into an image of a healthy person. By coordinating the interactions between artifacts from the two fields of medicine, a space for the two cultures to coexist is created.
The drum has medicine purposes. It can be used to find the soul if it has been lost or ward off bad spirits if they have infected a person. The ECG graph is an indicator to healthcare professionals about the state of the patient’s most important organ: the heart. It’s beat must stay within a narrow frequency range and pulse pattern to sustain life. By providing the participant with a healthy pulse, the ECG acts as instructions for the drum beat. The proper beat will act as medicine to nourish the patient back to health. It is easy to lose a sense of humanism is the sterile hospital setting. By making this piece, a reminder that sickness and treatment is a healing journey that should be honored. Studies provide evidence that social support promotes faster healing. By participating in the healing process, stronger social connections are formed and thus better immune systems. Natives leaving the reserve should not suffer from alienations during a critical time in their life. By bringing attention to the possibility of collaboration between the cultures, not only will the canadian identity be strengthened, we will be working towards a more inclusive environment.

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