These Are The Hands - Blog

Work in progress, ideas, and dialogue

These Are The Hands

People have already begun asking why ‘These are the hands’? The idea for the project is to explore creating as large a portrait of the people who make up the NHS as possible. It seemed natural and obvious to use hands as a vehicle as hands are a fundamental way we use to work, communciate and care for each other. What I didn’t know in proposing this originally was that Michael Rosen had written a poem specifically about care and the NHS in 2008. This was first published exclusively in the Guardian. I decided to use the title as a title for the Project itself.

Michael is allowing me to use the poem for the work. Here it is in full.

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.
These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.
These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.
And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.

© Michael Rosen

What’s it all about…

This is primarily a photographic Art project by Artist Tony Davis, which, via Residency, sets out to involve and engage patients and staff in an arts project. The project is funded by three hospitals in the Oxford university Hospitals Trust. The proposal is to undertake a photographic study of hospital staff focussing on hands. The project will engage with staff from all aspects of hospital life and aims to reflect their myriad roles in supporting and helping patients. Michael Rosen wrote a poem called ‘These are the Hands’ which co-inspires the nature of cradle to grave in terms of care.

Tony is interested in linking the staff role with their hands as a sort of puzzle/book form. Who’s hands do what? Can we tell? What is the connection between hands and job/skill? Tony would also like to get viewers to connect the idea of carers in all their perspectives with an aspect of the tools of the trade. Ideally the people will be a cross-section from office to surgery, from admin to application across the hospital, plus one/two patients. 

The final artforms being explored initially are: 

  • Three sets of images for three hospitals – the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals in Oxford and the Horton hospital Banbury.
  • Possible digital books
  • Website with possible interaction

Any comments on this project please contact Tony Davis.
This project will culminate in final installation of Artworks for exhibition and permanent display in 2015.



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