Waiting is a passive experience. We are not in control. We endure formalities and agonize over whose turn is next. In the medical waiting room, this sense of powerlessness is compounded by anxiety over possible outcomes.
The DropIN/PopUP Waiting Room Project by Marguerite Perret, Bruce Scherting, Robin Lasser, and James Stone turns this dynamic upside down. This multimedia, community-based art project is a platform for ideas, where the waiting room transforms into a place of substance and action. Here, visitors explore the complexities, incongruities, and possibilities of healthcare in the United States. The public is invited to weigh in on policy and access issues, to respond to medical research, and to examine conventional behaviors and emotions associated with the healthcare experience. The core question is: What are you waiting for? With healthcare surfacing as one of the most pressing concerns of the presidential election season, a true sense of urgency characterizes this installation.
Participants provide content by responding to an online questionnaire, which the artists mine for compelling words and phrases to incorporate into an animated visualization of data projected in the exhibition space. Answers to seemingly simple questions about healthcare take on new meaning and depth when juxtaposed against one another.
The framework for interaction is a waiting room comprising an interactive voting location where visitors may fill out the online questionnaires; a Band-Aid station resembling counters in examining rooms where physicians keep bandages but where, in this instance, visitors leave scribbled messages about encounters with the healthcare system; and a "talking table" that is, a table that looks like those encountered in conventional waiting rooms, but from which a soundtrack of disembodied voices emanates. The table is flanked by chairs where visitors may sit and listen to the stories of health care professionals interspersed with clips of pre-recorded voicemail options. On the walls behind the talking table, framed magazine covers project headlines that read like a playlist of a patients worst fears.
But ultimately, the installation represents hope and empowerment. When artists, scientists, healthcare professionals and patients come together to visualize the issues and listen to one another, challenging questions become interesting questions, and progress seems within reach.
So what are you waiting for? And what do you bring to the table?
The DropIN/PopUP Waiting Room Project opened at the Spencer Museum of Art
in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday, September 15. It will continue to evolve through Sunday, January 27, 2013.