Based on the analyze that I have done of the evolution of my grand mother Alzheimer’s disease, I am researching the link between the hand, the environment and the brain. This new language that I have to build to be able to communicate with her is a primitive way of communicate where the hand is the key element. And based on this degenerative disease, where we have to face an evolution, with many different impacts and aspects, I will analyze why the physical environment and the haptic are highly important, in our human evolution.
Considering the evolution of Alzheimers disease, and the loses and benefits in daily life generated by this degenerative disease, I have chosen to work on a cabinet. This furniture is a narrative object telling the story of the disease and the different impacts on our social interaction. Dealing with this idea of organization and chaos, of open structure and interconnection, the aesthetic has to reflect the environment where people understand and interact with their surroundings in a different way, and have to experience the daily world with particular tools.
The blurry universe where they evolve, allows them to generate connection between ideas and understanding in such a free way that they are building their own matrix and tools to decode their world.
This secret and very personal matrix is in a way the “heart” of the cabinet, where people store their goods and around it, the whole structure of the cabinet creates a skeleton of connections that you need to understand and deal with to be able to use it. It will be a language between your will and the will of the cabinet, a dialogue where you have to find the rules to use it and to remember how to reach the objects.
This idea of remembering and of rule of thumb for reaching your objects is also made to increase your haptic sense, and the mental connection between how and what you are storing things. This haptic aspect which is now the main way to interact with people with Alzheimers, since it’s a such powerful connection that it doesn’t need any common or complicated language.
This idea of haptic would be also shown with the materials and techniques used. I want to work with a fixed and straight structure where inside of it, some volumes try to fit but are not really straight. Thus, it’s the idea that the structure is made to store things that have their own life and evolution, and could not fit with it.
In 2005, my grand mother has been diagnostic with Alzheimer. As a degenerative disease, her life would be split between a before and an after the disease, a point of no return. She would have to deal with the disease for the rest of her life, and have to manage witnessing, the growth of the disease without being able to stop it.
The beginning of this time trial was founding the good balance between the tricks used to help her to remember (writing and repetition) and the will to not let the disease invades and regulates all the elements of our family life. We were supposed to live and to behave as usual as she was not shut in. The main issue was when she was loosing her thought, or her aim, and was starting to freak out. She was, as lost in a space where she knew that she was supposed to do something but not able to remember what. I had often felt that her disease was as a wall. As if she was hitting the same fence again and again, very conscious of this border but not able to overcome it. And this wall kept growing, bigger and bigger, enclosing more and more thoughts, wills, and memories.
She started to forget the actions that she just had done. Endlessly she was checking what had been achieved (or not). The information and her short-term memory were like some water in her hands: they were almost impossible to grab. But, what is short term? How could we define a period, if we don’t remember what was happening before? She was asking in a continuous rhythm the same questions again and again. Forgetting the answer, forgetting the question, but keeping in my mind the worries and the wonderings. She had more and more difficulties to grasp somehow the reality and to find some kind of referent point. The notion of time was for her increasingly obscure.
The words started also to be mixed up. This failure to express what she was pointing, had some effects on us, to produce a casting doubt on what she was saying. Each time it was a checking process, where she felt considered as a kid, controlled and looked after by her own children. And, right after the beginning of the oral words’ confusions, she started to lose her writing ability. She started to develop another alphabet. The shape of the letters would be a bit different and quiet briefly the step between the confusion and the abstract has been reached. Facing this impossibility to connect a mental idea to a symbol on a paper, and to share it with us, she stopped writing. This skill has been deserted. It was too painful to face this relapse. What was inside of her head would only have the possibility to be expressed by talking, with the increasing issue of confusing words. This precariousness of expressing ideas was another level added to the wall building this psychological imprisonment.
The rift in her ability to communicate started to be a gap, where confusions and misunderstandings were the major elements. I often perceived the disease as a labyrinth inside of it she was, with the obligation to keep going into the isolation.
Her relation to the environment was highly ambiguous. As a foreigner in her own language, the meaning of the words, was not anymore the same as us and vice and versa… We often had the feeling that she perceived language as an old friend but with no possibilities to say whom this person is. Her tong seemed to have forgotten how to produce sounds, how to reproduce what she was hearing. She was almost like a stammered parrot after the hearing of a funny sound. By the time, and because of this constant effort, she achieved to end up in this silence attitude in which she flees. The worlds themselves, in her mind seemed to have disappeared. We perceived her mind facing up to a black hole. In its growth, it would consume all the ideas, wills, memories and as the result of this wolfing down all her identity and her being. Facing to this internal shrinking, our response was to be as much as we could in a kinetic relation with her. Touching her, seems to be the best way to interact with her. This primitive attitude that we set up was the only answer to this brain failure, as if the only system that could respond to this degeneration was the return of our animal origins.
contact Lucile: firstname.lastname@example.org