A delicate context
The neurosurgical resuscitation service welcomes people following an operation carried out after serious brain trauma. Members of the department are working to improve the conditions in which relatives are received. This place, where bad news is often announced, is not adapted: the hall is a vast, impersonal and cold space that does not allow for a specialised reception, nor for confidentiality; the waiting room is still too small and the announcement room is not sufficiently appropriate for delicate conversations with families. Finally, as children are generally not allowed in the department, there is a need for a soothing waiting area for children.
Art to awaken
They then turned to the CHRU's endowment fund, which is particularly concerned with improving the reception of families. Together, they thought that an artist could respond to their concerns because it was not only a question of fitting out spaces but also of entering into the theme specific to the neurosurgical resuscitation service: the slow process towards recovery. They then called on the New Patrons action, which allows artists to work directly with the future users of the works and to affirm the social role of art. The mediator suggested that they commission Fabien Mérelle. His work is characterised by extremely realistic drawings, but which often tip over into a surreal world. The artist always depicts himself in pijamas - not unlike those of the patient - in situations where he struggles with nature, which is both benevolent and destructive, between dream and nightmare.
Meditating on the different moments of life
Fabien Mérelle imagines arrangements that demedicalise the waiting areas, as well as a series of drawings dedicated to each zone. He proposes to start from the patient's experience in order to invite the relatives to a better understanding of the situation. A recurring character in each drawing is found in scenes of a family going through moments of happiness, anxiety, or sorrow, oscillating between wakefulness and sleepiness, between hallucinations and reality.
A space is particularly dedicated to children with a hut in which they can, in turn, practice drawing. Nearby, a drawing made by the artist as a child is reproduced, and thirty years later he works on it with his adult eye and technique. He tries to rediscover the state of mind of the original drawings, like an introspection, where the playfulness, the dream, and the pleasure of inventing a story come back. The presence of animals and miniature characters plunges us into the world of tales.
Thus, the journey from the hall to the interior of the ward is tinged with humour and gravity, gentleness and embarrassment, bliss and torment, all feelings which, despite the surrealistic aspect of the representations, lead above all to a great lucidity in the face of life's trials. For, as Jean de La Fontaine would say, the fable wakes us up in order to better awaken us.