In 2008 we were joint artist-in-residence with Art in Hospital for six months in the Neonatal Unit of the Southern General Hospital. This was the beginning of our collaborative partnership.
Often premature babies are very sick and will spend up to 3 months on the unit, with parents suffering high levels of stress and anxiety. Dr Madeline White's original aim of the project was for artists to work creatively with parents of premature babies to encourage parental bonding during this anxious and stressful time.
We adopted a variety of approaches, including supporting parents to draw their baby, to photograph their baby and the space around the incubator, and we designed a series of technique cards and left out art material for parents to access when we weren't around. After a while we found that it was more effective for us to take on the role of photographing their baby on their behalf and gifting these to the parents.
We also considered how the material environment of the unit influenced people to change their behaviour in relation to expected norms and very clearly defined roles. In response we developed a critical and creative frame of reference by considering the unit itself as a “metaphorical stage" or performance.