Marie Brett and Philip Connaughton with the Dementia Carers Campaign Network
Primarily funded by the Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme, with funding from The Bank of Ireland Begin Together Arts Fund in partnership with Business to Arts; Dublin City Council Arts Office and Dublin Dance Festival
‘Yes, But Do You Care?’ is a cross-disciplinary collaborative art project by visual artist Marie Brett, working with dance artist and choreographer Philip Connaughton, with contributions from members of the Dementia Carers Campaign Network. This work explores the experiences of family carers, the human right to make a bad decision, and Ireland’s new capacity legislation.
Visual artist Marie Brett works across filmic, immersive sculptural installation and site responsive live events, making work about profound human experiences involving trauma or social (in)justice. She has a social arts practice and extensive experience in leading cross-disciplinary collaborations, spanning human rights, healthcare, and the social sciences. Recent works include On The Edge of My Sky, a nine country commission reconsidering European contributions to global justice, exhibited at Brussels European Parliament in 2020; The Day-Crossing Farm, a large, ambitiously immersive installation with performance about human trafficking, modern-day slavery and drug farming, presented by Cork Midsummer in Ireland during 2021; and IMMA’s premiere of Last Breath, a filmic work exploring the space between life and death, the mind and body, necromancy and the female supernatural in 2018. Marie is a graduate from Goldsmiths, London University; has received numerous awards for her practice; has toured two national exhibitions with extensive public engagement programmes; and has writing published in Ireland, the UK and Finland.
Dance artist and choreographer Philip Connaughton trained at the Rambert School of Contemporary Dance in London. In 2014, he formed Company Philip Connaughton and made Tardigrade which won best design in the Tiger Dublin Fringe Awards. In 2015 he created Whack!! in collaboration with Compagnie Kashyl, which toured extensively throughout Ireland and France. In 2017 he created Extraterrestrial Events, which previewed at Le Regard du Cygne in Paris before its premiere at Dublin Dance Festival 2017. Assisted Solo was made for Dublin Fringe Festival in 2018. Following that, Mamafesta Memorialising was created for the festival Question de Danse at KLAP Maison pour la Danse in Marseille before its Irish premiere at Cork Opera House. In 2019 he was awarded an Irish Times Theatre Award for best movement direction on Much Ado About Nothing.
Carers, formers carers, and supporters, of people living with dementia. They were mainly members of the Dementia Carers Campaign Network (DCCN) which is an advocacy group for people with experience caring for a loved one with dementia and is supported by The Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Other carers supported by The Alzheimer Society also took part. The DCCN was set up in 2013 and aims to be a voice of and for dementia carers in Ireland, and to raise awareness of issues affecting families living with dementia.
In 2019, visual artist Marie Brett contacted the DCCN to ask their members to collaborate with her in the process of making a new artwork, by sharing stories of their lived experience as a family carer or supporter of someone living with dementia. The DCCN was one of the contributors to the creative process, and Marie and Philip also consulted with experts in law, arts, advocacy, and human rights to inform this work.
To publicly explore potentially challenging aspects of care in Ireland today through sharing of re-imaged ‘hidden stories’, including exploring the possible implications of the new capacity legislation for family carers, the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015.
To build new audiences and offer topical thinking and reflection space.
To encourage philosophical consideration of how human rights can be promoted and protected in Ireland and share an understanding that rights and greater capacity may have unintended consequences that need to be explored.
The carers met with Marie a number of times, in different parts of the country, both individually and in groups, to share aspects of their lived experience. During this period Marie gathered numerous stories and led writing workshops, and over many months she combined the carers’ writings into a distilled down collective story.
Marie then worked with dance artist and choreographer Philip Connaughton, to bring these stories to life through dance and movement. They worked together online from opposite ends of the country using video chat, due to Covid-19 public health rules preventing travel. Marie shared her research, reading material notes, aspects of carers’ stories and the beginnings of new written narratives, and Philip made a series of creative responses to these materials though his body. Together they developed a series of performative responses and presented these as work-in-progress at IMMA’s People’s Pavilion during the summer of 2020 when carers attended and fed back into the developmental process. Additionally, Philip and Marie met the carers online and kept in contact by video chat.
The project resulted in two distinct art pieces and a series of online and in-person developmental and collaborative activities; plus, a bespoke website with supporting contextual materials, including a photographic series and a catalogue with three contextual essays.
As there were Covid-19 public health guidelines in place in Ireland at the time, the later stages of the collaboration between Marie, Philip and the carers took place online. The guidelines also meant that the artwork itself had to shift, from an intended live performance with an audience, to a re-imagined filmed version of the artwork. Marie and The Alzheimer Society of Ireland secured extra funding and a staged live event was produced with Philip Connaughton and four spoken word actors in a series of huge warehouse spaces. Visual art, sculptural forms and floor drawings were included, as well as recorded music, sound, and projected video elements. A film company documented the event, and co-edited ‘Yes, But Do You Care? – The Live Event’ with Marie, which was streamed by the Irish Museum of Modern Art, with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland linking online for two weeks in April 2021.
Separate to the live installation, an additional filmic piece was made by Marie which is now in the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s National Collection.
The project was evaluated in partnership with Dr Francesca Farina (Global Brain Health Institute, Trinity College Dublin), which involved Person Public Involvement (PPI) advisers who co-developed the evaluation plan. Dr Farina also created a blog post about the project, which is linked from this page.
The outcomes for the Dementia Carers Campaign Network were very positive, including being involved in a unique, informed, thought-provoking piece of art, being listened to, gaining confidence in telling more difficult stories of care, and seeing those stories reimaged publicly in a new light. The work also included creating a space to further the discussion of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act from the perspective of carer, and the needs of the carer within this.
Some of the responses from the carers involved in the project are included here.
“An excellent rendition, capturing the ‘inside voice’ on the outside. I really found that each piece resonated something deep inside as a carer.”
Dementia Carers Campaign Network
“I found the process incredibly cathartic, and it released a lot of inner feelings, and I was sceptical at first. I think it’s a fantastic piece of work, it’s really poignant.”
Dementia Carers Campaign Network
The outcomes for The Alzheimer Society of Ireland were also very worthwhile and included drawing a new audience, through art, to their advocacy work, giving the opportunity to carers who don’t speak publicly to have their stories told through the protection of an interpreted artistic performance, increasing understanding of the needs of dementia carers, networking with other leading professionals in the field, and raising awareness of the Dementia Carers Campaign Network and its objectives.
The outcomes for the artists were very positive, including the making of new artwork, reaching new audiences, the considerable development of each of their practices, extending their knowledge and trying out new ways of working and being involved within a supportive team that supported risk taking and creative vision.
The outcomes also included the collaboration with the carers, engaging bravely with sensitive materials and being trusted to carefully create with same, and also developing new approaches to interpreting stories (poem writing) and new ways and means of performance to share same publicly.
The public health guidelines in place at the time, also meant that the outcomes for the artists included learning how to continue to work online and persevering and adapting amid Covid-19 restrictions, problems, and adversity.
Documentation and Dissemination
To view the full artwork, please visit www.yesbutdoyoucare.ie where there is also a series of supporting digital and printed contextual materials.
A further piece, the filmic artwork of ‘Yes, But Do You Care?’ joined IMMA’s National Collection in 2021. Read more on the IMMA website.
Watch DCCN members discuss their experiences of collaborating on ‘Yes, But Do You Care?’