For an artist acclaimed for his explorations in the use of layered imagery, combining painting with video projection, whose thematic interest has been modern man's tendency to create self-protective bubbles or cocoons (see BIOGRAPHY), Dominik Lejman's installations for children's hospitals appear to represent simultaneously a departure from and yet an extension of the concerns in his best-known work. In any case they reveal a greater breadth of sensibility. While previously targeting escapist cocoons, here he is creating a kind of comforting cocoon on his own initiative, but for the benefit of others, as he transforms cold, antiseptic hospital décor into something - oddly enough - much more human, by projecting on appropriately situated walls the images of animals that attract the attention of the young patients, delight them, and distract them from their own anxiety, perhaps suggesting subliminally that the kids are entering upon procedures that - despite the scary utensils of glass and steel - are ultimately expressions of our place in a caring, natural world. There is documented evidence that art can be therapeutic and, indirectly, even healing. Lejman had previously done a 6-week installation along these lines in Poland, with his "Hospital as a Landscape for Little Spectacles", which he created for the Medical Academy Children's Hospital in Warsaw in 2002.
For this new multi-faceted, permanent installation at Schneider Children's Hospital, Dominik filmed his animals in such locations as the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium, in spaces that were comparable in size to their intended hospital sites. State-of-the-art video projection systems are so designed as to be invisible, so that one sees the animals - projected on the walls, floors and interior windows in continuous loops - as if they were really there. The sites are meant to become, as the artist puts it, "little discoveries" for the children, as they appear in the hospital's environment in a discreet way, waiting to be found by the little patients, who can create stories that make connections between them and their animal heroes. Children have often commented that the animals look more scared than they are themselves.
Dominik Lejman explains further: "Hospitals are particularly difficult to transform visually in ways that can neutralize their aura of trauma. Children, especially, need tools that would allow them to make such an environment feel far more familiar and safe. Given the architectural and communications requirements, I decided to transform the hospital's space into a series of video projections, designed specifically for selected sites in the hospital, and to function under daylight conditions."
"It is precisely the opposition between matter and absence of materiality that leads to the core of Lejman's work: ideas of permission and transformation, lack of embodiment and the rules which might govern this. In other words, the miraculous and the quotidian, and how they intersect in everyday life." - Stuart Morgan
The installation is presented by RxArt and Schneider Children's Hospital, in association with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, with special thanks for making the project possible to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Wildlife Conservation Society, encompassing the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium, as well as Petland Discounts and Location One.
Rx Art, a not-for-profit corporation, seeks to promote and accelerate healing through exposure to original fine art in patient, procedure, and examination rooms of healthcare facilities, in the belief that healing is optimally accomplished only by the integration of spiritual and emotional health. As advances in technical treatment continue, environments are becoming increasingly sterile and alienating. Art de-institutionalizes these settings by providing a humanistic and creative surrounding which helps to relieve the stress and anxiety of patients, families, and staff. It provides a psychological escape from healthcare difficulties and inspires improved morale and hope for all. Therapeutically, research evidence supports the organization's belief that viewing art promotes a healing physiology which fortifies the immune system, changes pain perception, and decreases hospital length of stay.