Article in Cork’s Evening Echo by Mary Hassett
“E.gress is a very important piece of work … It capturers people trying to make sense of something that can’t be made sense of.”
“A film which recorded the personal experiences of those living with Alzheimer’s disease will screen in Cork next week. Mary Hassett talks to those involved in the artwork project, which features local sufferers and their families
GIANT mobile cinema will trundle into the car park of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland Bessboro Day Care Centre in Blackrock on Thursday, February 11.The screen will show the film E.gress, which aims to shed light on dementia and the people who suffer from it.
“E.gress is not about people with dementia. It is rather a collaborative arts project with people who have dementia,” explains Julie Murphy, HSE South Community Worker, who was involved in an advisory capacity with E.gress.
Not alone was some of it filmed there, but it features eight women and men who were in the past regular attendees at the Bessboro Day Care Centre. Sadly, some of the participants have since died and more have moved into nursing home care.
The same is true of the ten participants from the ASI Midleton Day Care Centre who were also centre stage in the project.
E.gress was co-produced by Co. Cork based visual artist Marie Brett and musician Kevin O’Shanahan. It took the form of a collaboration with families and carers and the individuals who were diagnosed with dementia.
“They gifted us a view into their own personal experience which we recorded through video, sound and photography,” Marie Brett explained.
Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) Operations Co-Ordinator for the Southern Region, Jon Hinchliffe, is hoping a wide cross section of people will come along to see the film, which is being shown at the Bessboro Day Care Centre as part of a national tour presented by Ms Brett.
E.gress will be shown on a loop all day on February 11 from 9.30am to 6.30pm in the car park. Everyone is welcome to come along free of charge to view the ten minute film as many times as they wish.
Ms Brett will be on hand most of the day to chat to viewers and a discussion session will take place in the Bessboro Day Care Centre at 6.30pm with Ms Brett and Mr Hinchliffe encouraging participants to put forward their queries and views of the film.
“E.gress is a very important piece of work because anything that emphasises the fact that people are individuals and that they have a worth irrespective of their illness is something that needs to be presented,” Hinchliffe points out.
“The film is not cheerful or happy but it tells a story. It captures people trying to make sense of something that can’t be made sense of.
“They’re not Alzheimer patients; they’re people with a life, with their own values and interests,” Jon stresses.
The ASI acted as a facilitator in bringing together the participants’ families and the two artists involved. Trust had already been built up between the ASI staff and the artists through an earlier project entitled Converging Lives which took place at the ASI Bandon Day Care Centre.
Everyone involved with the E.gress project was determined that the person with dementia should be at the very centre of the work. The thorny issue of consent to participation was a central concern with every effort made to respect the dignity of the participants while remaining true to the artwork.
When E.gress was shown late last year at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the response was overwhelmingly positive. One family member left the following message in the comment book afterwards: “Thank you. As a carer it is so helpful and good to see it from the inside out. Your work is so professional and so moving. Humanity oozes from the screen.”
E.gress was filmed in participants’ homes throughout Cork with the assistance of their families as well as at the Bessboro and Midleton Day Care Centres and Oaklodge Nursing Home in Cloyne.
Perhaps one of the most powerful images from the film is that of a lady looking at herself in a large mirror in her own home.
“Something’s gone wrong on you,” she tells her reflection, wagging her finger in the direction of the mirror. “It’s not you, it’s not me,” she tells an image of herself that she no longer recognises.
“E.gress aimed to explore the ambiguity of what it means to be in the presence of one who is and isn’t with you”, Ms Brett explains.
“The name comes from an architectural term of coming and going. It suggests a threshold in terms of entering into something and leaving something, a point of transition.
“For me, the experience of dementia is all about moving from one place to another, an ever shifting territory.”
This is a theme echoed by Jon Hinchliffe, who believes that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is all about a progression, with a sense of loss occurring at every level both for the person with dementia and their families and carers.
“Families are grieving people who are still alive,” Jon points out.
He is hoping that people who have issues with dementia will come along to see the film and then perhaps drop into the Day Care Centre to enquire about its support services.
In addition to its Day Care facilities, the Bessboro Centre also offers a Dementia Adviser service, a Home Care service covering Cork and Kerry, an Information and Advocacy service, a Saturday Club and a Family Support group.
The Bessboro Day Care Centre is the only Cork stop on the nationwide tour of E.gress.
For more information, call the ASI Bessboro Daycare Centre, Blackrock, Cork, on 021 4972504 or the Alzheimer Society Ireland National Helpline: 1800 341 341.”
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