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Out of Focus

How the project unfolded

Out of Focus is a creative response to being unexpectedly locked down for six months with my parents in the UK.


Despite speaking to them twice a week nothing could have prepared me for the discovery of their weight loss, change of personality and mental state. In essence they and their lives had become OUT OF FOCUS. During that visit they decided it was time to move house and together we began to filter their belongings, finding a huge box of over 4000 visual slides of photos mostly shot on his beloved Canon camera.


Each 1 inch square image captured a frozen moment in time like a piece of mosaic. Collectively these slides told the story of their lives, some of which I had shared too and this was my motivation as Sylvia and Gordon Helliwell approach the age of 90 together.

During lockdown I projected the slides and recorded my parents’ reactions, later editing and digitising a proportion of them. It is these images and sounds that Tomás Moran and Adam Kennedy have worked with to create the visuals and soundscape.


Being custodian, I accept that as their memories fragment the relevance of some of these slides will be lost, whilst others will be diluted through the generations. Having been present when a proportion of these pictures were taken, has not only shaped who I have become but ignited my interest in how memories are triggered by our senses, whether that be visual, smell, sound or touch. Our personal recall, like our DNA, is unique depending on our previous experiences, but when cells start to die in different parts of the brain, our cognitive ability, speech, memory and personalities can change. These can be symptoms of Dementia. Science is now proving that if a memory is in the brain, it can be woken up by the right stimulation. The key to aiding people living with Dementia is to find that trigger. 

Out of Focus

Сonsists of 5 interactive, multi-media, multi-sensory installations, with contrasting sounds and smells hidden in the displays.
The exhibition combines art with science to stimulate our cognitive functions and recall. It is aimed to bring joy and conversation to improve the well being of all the community, especially those living with memory loss and dementia.

A deck chair with the sling created from linked illuminated holiday slides 1950's - 2000 sits on a bed of sand.


An original 1960’s school desk covered in travelled maps contain a miscellany of treasured objects and alternating farm images. 

The glass box encases a section from a hedgerow. A birds egg, butterfly and fishing fly nestles in moss behind a large magnifying glass.

A selection of hand painted graphics design from the 1950's to 1995 highlight the process from studio to print and manufacture.

Are fragmented and distorted audio visuals taken from slides and recordings of Nicky Dowd's parents and appear as an artistic representation of someone experiencing symptoms of Dementia. When memories fuse, words are misheard and attention drifts.
An interactive tablet invites you to create your own infinite combinations of images.

What people said:

"OUT OF FOCUS was fascinating and moving. An authentic exploration of an important human condition.
Nicky, Adam and Tomás created a genuinely moving experience made with sensitivity and care to produce an
immersive experience for their audience. Wonderful thought provoking and from the heart"

Dr. Lucy Hill Assistant Professor,Visual Art Education, School of Arts Education and Movement, Institute of Education Dublin City University

"An amazing exhibition appealing to all the senses. Incredibly powerful."

"A stunning representation of the many faces of Dementia."

"Touching, poignant evocative and what an incredibly powerful collaboration with Tomas and Adam. Your work fits seamlessly together to create something truly beautiful."

"Really impactful immersive exhibition. I truly hope I get to see this again"

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