For the first year of our operation, Arts for Dementia carried the brain pallet proudly as its logo. However, as I was delving deeper into theories of brainhood and what it means being human, I was becoming more and more convinced that while the pallet could signify the potential of artistic expression, the brain emblem was reducing the dementia experience to a body organ. A phenomenon that happens often under the medical model where dementia is being diagnosed and treated, the very model that my work hopes to navigate away from into a more wholistic terrain where we can recognize that being human cannot be reduced to the sum of our body parts. That being human is experiencing life and death and joy and longing, that being human is forgetting and remembering, that being human is being a universe in its entirety, a universe that is a part of a tapestry of human connections and embodied experiences that constitute our place in the world. In short: Contrary to what D.F. Swaab's bestseller suggests, we believe that we are SO MUCH MORE than our brains.
As such, I decided that we should find a new concept to identify our multifaceted activity that aims to represent dementia as a human experience that is highly contingent on our human relationships. I was in luck as I happened to visit Toronto Light Fest 2017 that featured the art installation created by the Netherlands-based VeniVidiMultiplex.
The UnitingLightStar "represents humanity in one iconic object. It is strongly held together by its mathematical perfection and at the same time shows its complexity and vulnerability in the internal string structure"
The UnitingLightStar showed itself in the most serendipitous moment as it was completely darkened when I stepped into the snowy open space where it was displayed. It took patience and observation and care to notice the connections that bind the geometrical constellation together.
I view The UnitightLightStar as an allegory to the connections that humans foster and maintain. Particularly with people with dementia who don't necessarily communicate in the way we would expect them to (they might seem to us as 'dim'), but if we're patient enough and approach the person with care and empathy we might see the darkened strings of beauty and realize that in fact everything is connected. It is only when we notice these connections that the star lights up in its uniting magic, making us see that sometimes even when we can't identify the connections right away, they are always already present and just waiting patiently to be recognized.