The Harmonic Oscillator reimagines twenty-first-century health environments with an artist-led process. By placing contemporary artist Vic McEwan within a functioning hospital ward, we relocate the traditional creative working space of the studio into the living space of the health-care setting, amongst the fear of intensive care, the deafening sonic bombardment of the MRI scanner and the daily drudgery of dialysis. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that average noise levels should be lower than 35 decibels in hospital treatment rooms and 30 in wards, a standard that hospitals struggle to achieve. Research tells us that the loud soundscapes of our hospital spaces are having adverse effects on recovery with identified issues including:

 

  • Triggering the sympathetic nervous system, which increases cardiac work

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Adverse effects on respiratory muscle function

  • Increased sedation requirements in critically ill patients

  • Contributing to sleep disturbance

  • Causing stress reactions

  • Impaired immune function

  • Decreased weight gain

  • Impairing communication with staff and family – especially for mechanically ventilated patients

  • Contributing to hearing loss

  • Causing unrest for patients who appear to be sleeping, while under heavy sedation or being mechanically ventilated

 

This project considers how the artist-as-researcher might engage with the lived experience of patients, families and staff to generate outcomes that enable a better understanding of the human experience of treatment and recovery.