Patients Use Hospital Gowns as Creative Canvas

Press Release

28.07.2020 2pm  - 15.08.2020 7pm

For Immediate Release
Berlin – July 5th, 2020

Press Release: Art Project, Shared Experience, Illness, Health, Hospital, Installation, Social Art

How Does Iit Feel?

Patients Use Hospital Gowns As Creative Tool

In her art project How does it feel?, artist Hannah Santana invites patients to customize and paint on hospital gowns; using them as a canvas to express their emotions.

WHAT: How Does Iit Feel?, group exhibition/art project by Hannah Santana

WHEN: Duration: July 28th – August 15th, 2020, Tuesday-Saturday 2-7 pm, entry free

WHERE: SomoS, Kottbusser Damm 95, 1.0G, 10967 Berlin (U8 – Schönleinstraße)


Carla Steinbrecher – Christine – Elisabeth – Elisabeth W. – Elke – Evita Emersleben – Fabian – Gunda – Insa Pape – Johanna – Johanna Wildhagen – Kathrin Stalder – Lea Berndl – Marion – Michaela Marcian – Nina Romming – Norma Ingenfeld – Raphael – Sigrid + 5 anonymous participants

Artist and performer Hannah Santana initiated the participatory art project “How does it feel?” back in February 2019, looking on social media for prospective participants among patients currently suffering from an illness or people that have been recently in treatment. The 24 participants who accepted her invitation – consisting of 21 women and 3 men between 19 and 77 years old from Germany and Switzerland – received a plain patient hospital gown, which they then inscribed and processed with thoughts about their experiences.

The theme of illness and the threat to health is something that is hanging above us all during these recent pandemic times. The fear of contagion, the acknowledgment of the possibility that one may fall ill is a silent companion.

The focus of this project is not on a specific disease or disease itself, but on the human being and their world of thoughts, first as an individual and then as a collective. The process of using the patient gown as a medium allowed the participants to externalize their inner states, thoughts and experiences, resulting also in the possibility of allowing others to enter their secluded and emotional spaces. Within this process, the gowns were alienated from their original purpose, becoming a canvas for the articulation of inner feelings; an open and non-judgemental space for self-expression.

Hospital practice is beginning to be more widely researched and questioned in search of more holistic approaches. Currently, patients are expected to conform to strict hospital standards once hospitalized, and are allocated in plain and aseptic rooms with very few personal items, dressed uniformly in plain gowns, in an environment that can’t reflect their personality or allow its expression. Dehumanized, objectified, and reduced to their medical condition, patients often feel devalued, undignified, and vulnerable, their medical condition becoming more real and defining, potentially negatively affecting the healing process.

The eerie feeling is given a historical and philosophical dimension, when we bring to mind how French scholar Michel Foucault spoke of the common focus on discipline, uniformity, and efficiency shared by institutions such as hospitals, asylums, schools, factories, the military, and prisons. Symbolically seen, the hospital gown may stand for the helplessness of the subject within technocratic institutions. In “How does it feel?,” however, Hannah Santana invites the participants to reverse the symbolism of the gown, in a liberating creative process that leads from powerlessness to agency and dignity.

Santana’s installation of the gowns in the gallery, floating from the ceiling, gives the artworks an intimate, poetic and pensive aura. The presence of the feelings and thoughts expressed on these smocks is emotionally impactful. The dedication that these current or former patients have put in the personalization of the gown stands in strong contrast with the common standards of hospital care. The handwriting, the thoughts and the words of the patients transform the gowns and give a voice to the invisible traces of the everyday life of disease.

About Hannah Santana:

Hannah Santana is a Portuguese-German artist, performer, mediator, and researcher. Her background is within the fields of art and art therapy. Since 2018 Santana has held collaborative performance workshops in the capacity of tutor and research assistant at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Ottersberg, following the university’s focus on the “Artistic Interventions in Prevention and Health Promotion.” Santana is currently enrolled in the MA program “Spatial Strategies” at Weißensee Kunsthochschule, Berlin. Here she is continuing her research on art interventions in both public and private spaces, and pursuing her participatory projects on the topic of care, using art as a space for genuine communication and inquiry.




Social Media:

Tags: #illness #dehumanization #hospital #hospitalgown #vulnerability #patient #foucault #uniformity #uniform #gown #exhibition #HannahSantana #SomoS #SomoSBerlin #Berlin #Art #artinneukoelln

Twitter: @SomoS_Berlin

In her art project “How does it feel?,” artist Hannah Santana invites patients to customize and paint on hospital gowns; using them as a canvas to express their emotions.

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About SomoS:

SomoS is a non-commercial artist-run art space with an emphasis on interdisciplinary projects, intergenerational community and diversity, founded in 2012. Working with emerging and mid-career artists, including those from underserved backgrounds and communities, SomoS provides space, knowledge and resources for the production, presentation, and reflection of the arts. Its mission is to create an international open framework for innovative arts, curatorial projects, education and creative cooperation. SomoS’ engaged schedule of exhibitions, performances, seminars and artist talks is free to the public, and aims to spark interest, discussion, cooperation and understanding, as it activates art’s unique positive uniting potential.


SomoS, Kottbusser Damm 95, 1.OG, 10967 Berlin

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