11 July 2012
A performing arts designer by trade, Efterpi Soropos has spent many years fascinated by the way plays of light can affect audiences. Efterpi’s skills obviously lie in guiding people through spectrums of emotion and sensation because she has been busy working with the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton, Victoria (managed by Southern Health) as part of the Connections Residency Program.
Efterpi is successfully connecting art with medicine by creating environments and immersive spaces to assist patients in alleviating stress, anxiety and suffering.
Efterpi’s creative partnership with Monash first began in 2007 with her research into the effects of the interior environments of hospitals in palliative care units. Following on from her research Efterpi developed a work in 2008 called the ‘Disambiguation Room’ housed in McCulloch House, the palliative care unit at Monash Medical Centre. The room forms a part of a multifunctional art space incorporating light sound, music, smell, texture, colour and image for immersion by in patients and their families using the facility.
Efterpi worked with a creative pool of artists to create the Disambiguation Room. This included:
- Lucy Paplinska and Paul O’Connor – Videography
- Tim Cole – Sound Designer
- David Bridie, Helen Mountford, Amy Valent – Original compositions (music)
- Ben Cisterne – Technical creative genius
- Leon Salom - Design execution
The original project was called ‘Disambiguation’ because the aim was to create a space in McCulloch House that offered another way of bridging the gap between the ambiguity of the use of art and medicine. Currently, in facilities like McCulloch House the best medical and nursing care is offered as a way of keeping people at end of life as pain free and comfortable with maximal quality of life as possible before they die. It is not traditional to consider that an artist created environment might also enhance this practice. Efterpi’s Connection residency project aims to discover how this can be achieved.
Rebecca Lovitt, the Art Curator and Arts Program Manager at Southern Health believes “Efterpi’s work offers the clinical setting insight into the potentials of artistic interventions and the integration of physical elements of the health environment for positively impacting on an individual’s well being and physical comfort.”
The presence of the Disambiguation Room has also generated interest from other areas of the hospital leading to patients from the child and adolescent mental health unit visiting to see how it affected them. This interest has now developed into a new project for the unit to reduce seclusion and escalation of manic or psychotic episodes by creating a interactive space similar to the “disambiguation room” for the unit. There are also plans for a third room to be made for the geriatric psychiatric unit in June 2010. Participants have described the experience as rewarding, relaxing, calming and a space for contemplation. In addition, the physicians are also seeing results that can be measured in clinical terms.
Throughout Efterpi’s Connection Residency, Southern Health have been able to offer her the resources that she requires to advocate and build her relationships with the other departments of the hospital who have observed her work and would like to develop projects in their own facilities.
Efterpi hopes to further influence the design and purpose of hospital spaces including patient rooms, treatment rooms, waiting rooms and therapy rooms so that these rooms are not only functional but what she believes as being ‘more user friendly.’