Lily & Jonathan – When Children become Galaxy Riders and Deep Sea Divers

Oxford, January 16, 2012 – A kid’s journey to a surgery theatre is never a joyful trip. A unique photographic installation by the German artist Jan von Holleben aims to improve this experience. Beginning January 16, patients of the John Radcliffe Children‘s Hospital in Oxford witnessed the installation of an exhibition uniquely designed to distract children from their fears.

In Spring 2011, Jan von Holleben was selected by the Oxford University NHS Hospitals Trust, one of the largest NHS teaching trusts in Britain, to develop new artwork for two long corridors leading from the wards in the Children’s Hospital to the operating theatres as well as the ceilings of 14 anaesthetic rooms. The project was entirely funded through charitable donations from Firefly Tonics and the Fund for Children.

After spending a week as artist in residence in Oxford for inspiration, Jan spent two months speaking to doctors, therapists, play specialists, art coordinators, nurses, anesthetists, porters, patients and their parents to capture ideas and prepare for the project. The final photo production took place with nine children in his studio in Berlin in late August.

Ultimately, the story of ‚Lily & Jonathan“ was born as an installation consisting of 315 individual photographs and over 40 composite panels. The series captures the adventures of two friends, Lily & Jonathan, who set out on a fantastic journey. After zooming across the countryside, the friends use their magical powers to fly into space and then to dive under water, neither adventure requiring much effort or special equipment. Along the way Lily & Jonathan meet other children and together they dive into a exciting dream world of galaxy games and underwater dances.

The story was designed so that it mirrors the child’s own journey into the surgery room, therefore helping to construct individual stories for each child. In this way the children can drift away into the fantastic stories at just the right time.
What better place could one imagine such an exhibition than in a children’s hospital?

Adrail (Patient, age 14): “This is such a unique and thought-provoking project. I have never seen anything like it before. So much fun and so cool!”

Helen Care (Clinical Psychologist at Oxford Children’s Hospital): “I was struck by how useful [the images] might be to me in my work with children when preparing them for [the surgery] theatre.”

Jan von Holleben: “This was by far the largest and most rewarding project to date for me. Working with an enormously varied group of people from doctors to patients and porters who push the beds down the corridors made this a complete commission. Being able to incorporate so many different ideas and fusing them with my personal storytelling is an incredible experience! I am utterly proud having created this work for such a tragic and emotionally loaded environment. I hope that anyone – and particularly the kids – walking down this corridor will be able to dream a little bit!“

Erica Watson (Senior Play Specialist at Oxford Children’s Hospital): “…it is a great distraction on the children’s journey to theatre. We talk about coat hangers being used for birds and socks for fish and trying to see if there are pairs of socks. We also follow the children’s journey either diving into the sea or going up into space and when we reached the end of the pictures I tell the children that they may find one in the anaesthetic room up on the ceiling and we need to look for it when we get there! The response has been very positive ! Thank you for all your hard work to achieve this. Many children will benefit!”

Ruth Charity (Arts Coordinator at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust): “We selected Jan to work on this project as his work has the ability to engage with such a wide audience – from small children to adults – and to make people smile – which is all important in a hospital environment. We wanted to create artwork that would be enjoyed by young patients, their parents and staff at the hospital as well as older patients using the anaesthetic rooms who also need something to distract them from the stress of the experience. People look at Jan’s work as a series of joyful images but also enjoy spending time working out how these fabulous scenes are created from mundane household objects.
The response we’ve had to the work has been so positive – it is already helping children take their mind off the surgery to come, providing a welcome distraction for parents and has created a much more attractive and engaging working environment for staff – from cleaners to surgeons.“

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