Last Scene

Health care workers learn to probe the intimate depths of an individual often through a dispassionate, scientific lens and language: measuring and interpreting blood serum chemistries, taking a history of illicit drug use, episodes of heart disease within the family. These questions are important for understanding the biomedical aspects of disease, but humanistic healthcare requires understanding the social, psychological, affective, and existential aspects of illness as well. Art can help us expands the boundaries of our exploration beyond the body further, to the individual beyond the pathology. The artist Hrair Sarkissian describe their piece ’Last Scene’ (2016) as “a series of 47 photographs of places in The Netherlands that there chosen by terminally ill patients to go and see as their last wish. The project centers on the power of a well-loved place to compress an outlook on life into a telling scene that is at once melancholic and joyful. The simplicity of each landscape or scene heightens attention to an inner journey of remembering the past and envisioning a future that no longer includes you.In contemporary culture the notion of death and dying is often consciously ignored. This project gives the viewer a way in to grapple with the question of where we come from, and where we are going. The images turn into mirrors: on the one hand you try imagine the person who looked at the scene for the last time, while at the same time it encourages introspection: what would my wish be?. These scenes were photographed at the date and time of the actual last visit.” 

Please view at least 5 of these photographs. Spend time staring at them, and even when you think you've taken in everything one has to offer you, look a while longer and see if additional thoughts or insights don't emerge. Jot down your thoughts and reflections. In particular, what sort of image of the each patient associated with each photograph comes to your mind. How might those insights help you provide more humanistic care to those patients?

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