"Notes On Hospitals"



Aaron Dickson

Belfast School of Art at Ulster University


Victims of crimes often end up in Hospital but what happens when the victim of the crime is the Hospital?

Images of patients languishing on trolleys in hospital corridors and articles proclaiming 'crisis within the NHS.'  What if there is another way to approach this story?  The hospital is where many of us are born, it is the place where we take our first breath, meet our parents for the first time and first experience the world outside the womb.  It is a physical structure imbued with emotion and significance yet concomitantly clinical and detached. The hospital is a place of birth and death, love and loss, joy and despair.  Notes On Hospitals was made inside seven NHS hospitals in Northern Ireland during 2015 and 2016.  Each hospital was operational and in use at the time the photographs were taken.

Dickson’s photographs invite us to distinguish between what we see and most likely know and what we do not see, but suspect.  Assessment of their factuality or plausibility has a bearing on the range of consequences and human responses that might follow.

“The scene of a crime, too, is deserted; it is photographed for the purpose of establishing evidence.”

    Walter Benjamin*

This work provides evidence of the current architectural state of, and challenges faced by, publicly funded hospitals in one part of the UK.  What can we establish from this evidence?  What has been gained from pronouncements of the past and how do they influence the future of publicly funded systems of healthcare.

  “I find it quite difficult to imagine a hospital without people in it; like a school or a theatre, people define these places.  Dickson's photography of the interiors of a number of Irish hospitals provides a trail of unpopulated photographs.  It's hard to tell if the hospitals have been abandoned or are in use as his images are very sparse and uncluttered.  I particularly like the way that Dickson has considered light in his images - balancing natural exterior light with the harsher casts of interior functional and efficient lighting.”

    Cliff Lauson – Curator, Hayward Gallery

“Photography has an amazing ability to reveal beauty in the everyday, and this is precisely what Dickson has managed to achieve in his project 'Notes on Hospitals'.  By limiting himself to within the confines of the hospital walls Dickson was forced to look closer and harder at the ordinary, bland and mundane interior of a busy working public building.  His images reveal structure, form and beauty found within the everyday environment.  Dickson also manages to capture the passing of time shown through the wear and tear on the physical space and moments of calm and absence.  Overall there is a sustained focus and consistency to the project.”

    Shoair Mavlian – Curator, Tate Modern



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