“Do You Understand” is an experiential art piece which seeks to promote empathy and discussion around invisible illnesses such as arthritis. Chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, often have “invisible” symptoms which can appear and just as easily disappear from day to day. Society often works to appropriately address only visible illnesses—individuals whose sickness is visible. This creates misunderstanding toward individuals who struggle with invisible illnesses. They can oftentimes feel like they cannot communicate with able-bodied individuals—like their voice is not heart.
The setup of “Do You Understand” includes a large floor-to-ceiling, circular maze. The Maze walls are made of semi-opaque, frosted glass. This glass materiality seeks to represent how fragile individuals with chronic illnesses such as arthritis can feel when they experience pain invisible to others. In addition to floor-to-ceiling glass walls are speakers throughout the maze.
An individual is guided into the center of a maze, blindfolded. When given permission, the participant can take off their blindfold and attempt to navigate their way out of the maze. Around the maze are people who believe they are helping the participant by guiding them through the maze using their voice. They are able to see a faux visual of the location of the participant within the maze moving about. The participant can hear the people outside the maze trying to help; however, the participant is unable to respond. The individuals around the outter edge of the maze are unaware of this and continue trying to help the participant.