Reimagining twenty-first-century health environments with an artist-led process, The Harmonic Oscillator project places contemporary artist Vic McEwan within a functioning hospital ward, relocating 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

  • Have an adverse effects on respiratory muscle function

  • Increase sedation requirements in critically ill patients

  • Contribute to sleep disturbance

  • Cause stress reaction

  • Impair immune function

  • Decrease weight gain

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

  • Contribute to hearing loss

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

 

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.