English summary


BETER, de kunst van gezondheid (BETER, the art of healing) is a research exhibition opening to the public in Medisch Centrum Haaglanden (Haaglanden Medical Centre) from 9 November 2012 to 8 February 2013. This is the first time scientific methodology has been used in a public exhibition to investigate the key question: ‘Can art affect our health?’


Care and culture are prickly topics during these times of cutbacks. There is a growing dichotomy between the call for demonstrable benefits and effectiveness on the one hand, and the need for subjective values and quality of life on the other. Many people agree that art enriches our lives and is therefore good for our wellbeing. But are the possible remedial effects of art also quantifiable? The healing powers of art will be evaluated in a pioneering international investigation in Medisch Centrum Haaglanden.



Statistics = knowledge?

The quality and costs of health care are coming under increasing scrutiny. Less time and money means less attention is paid to individual care and the quality of the surroundings. A healing environment has been shown to positively affect a patient’s recovery, reducing the burden on the health care budget. Art’s role in this is still unclear. We know that people enjoy looking at beautiful things, and that ‘true art’ affects people in a different way from ‘fake art’. But no explicit investigation has been done into whether art really is beneficial to health.



What makes me feel BETTER?

BETER, the art of healing spans health care, science, art and society and poses questions. The goal is to involve as broad a public as possible and encourage them to think about questions such as: what does being healthy mean to me? How can I change my environment to improve my wellbeing? Can such issues be evaluated with research and equipment? BETER seeks answers – both on and off the beaten track – and encourages discussions about art and health and whether the effects of art on health can be quantified.



Art and placebo

To answer the key question ‘Can art affect health?’ the effectiveness of healing art is compared to that of placebos for art. A placebo for art is an object that purports to be art, but isn’t. The placebos are made by professional and amateur artists, or are sourced from the Behring Institute for Medical Research. The supposedly healing artworks used during the research were loaned from various (museum) collections, or were specially made by the artists. In addition several artists, including young talent, internationally recognised names, and amateurs were asked to submit works for this research exhibition.



The research exhibition

The art and placebos for art are displayed and their possible effects are researched throughout the entire Medisch Centrum Haaglanden building. An art route consisting of about 30 works will be installed on the first three floors of the hospital. Visitors can participate in this research in a simple way by completing a brief questionnaire about each work. Physiological research will be conducted on the MCH’s atrium above the restaurant. This research will use equipment from Mind Media to measure physical reactions such as fluctuations in temperature, muscle contraction, perspiration levels and heart rate. Also in the atrium, the Hersencentrum (Brain Centre) will investigate how the brain reacts to art and placebos. Research will be conducted in other departments as well, including at the eye clinic, the sleep area and the radiology and haemodialysis departments. This research relates to wellbeing: can art positively influence a patient’s perception of his or her surroundings. Additional research in this location will be conducted by TU Delft and the research bureau Natuurvoormensen. The project also involves home-based research – participants will have an artwork or placebo sent home and their health is monitored weekly. Read more about this home-based research at www.thuisonderzoek.nl (in Dutch)



Participation and the public

For BETER the roughly 12,300 visitors per week to the Medisch Centrum Haaglanden are an important target group. The daily flow of patients, visitors and employees – largely from the hospital’s immediate care area, which is home to 99 different nationalities – provides BETER with the unique opportunity to engage with a very culturally diverse group. Locally and nationally, the general public and those interested in art, health care and related knowledge, will be regularly informed via various communication channels for the duration of the project. The topic is of interest to many different fields and perspectives and will therefore appeal to a broad public.



The results of the research

The results of the research will be collated and presented in a publication and at a symposium that will be held in Spring 2013 in Medisch Centrum Haaglanden; both of these target an international audience.




BETER is a project by EGBG (Martijn Engelbregt) and Pavèl van Houten. EGBG has many years of experience developing high-profile projects that centre on participation, discussion and research. Among others, EGBG developed De Dienst (The Service, 2004), the research body for art for the Dutch parliament, which conducted a three-year investigation into the (im)possibility of combining art and democracy. Two of EGBG’s projects that attracted a great deal of attention are the Burenwinkel (Neighbourhoodshop, 2007), about how neighbours behave and how this can be changed for the better; and Tegenscript (Counterscript, 2000), a telephone script that reverses roles and instead subjects a telemarketer to a barrage of questions. Solo exhibitions of Engelbregt’s works have been held in the Lakenhal, the Fries Museum, Mot in Japan, and elsewhere. www.egbg.nl



BETER, the art of healing is an initiative of EGBG (Martijn Engelbregt), developed in collaboration with Medisch Centrum Haaglanden and TAAK (curator Theo Tegelaers). Research partners: TU Delft, GEMAK, Behring Institute for Medical Research, Natuurvoormensen, Hersencentrum, Utrecht School of the Arts and Mind Media. BETER is realised in collaboration with SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, the DOEN Foundation, the VSB Fund, Innovatiefonds Zorgverzekeraars and the Mondriaan Fund.


The Recommending Committee consists of Henk J. Smid, director ZonMw; Ine van Hest, director Innovatiefonds Zorgverzekeraars; Elco Brinkman, director Bouwend Nederland; Ad Poppelaars, columnist and supervisor in the health care sector.


Location: Medisch Centrum Haaglanden Westeinde, Lijnbaan 32 2512 VA Den Haag


Contact BETER:

Director: Martijn Engelbregt, martijn@beterconsortium.nl

Organisation: Pavèl van Houten, pavel@beterconsortium.nl

Communication and fundraising: Christiane Bosman, christiane.bosman@gmail.com



BETER Publicatie: Om in te nemen, bestel m nu!

De uitslagen, conclusies en reflecties van het BETER onderzoek zijn gebundeld in een publicatie getiteld: Om in te nemen. Op 14 juni 2013 wordt de publicatie tijdens het BETER Symposium gepresenteerd.

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Conclusies BETER onderzoek gepubliceerd tijdens BETER Symposium

Op 14 juni 2013 organiseert het BETER Consortium in MCH Westeinde het BETER Symposium. De langverwachte onderzoeksresultaten van de interactieve onderzoeksexpositie BETER, de kunst van gezondheid worden hier gepresenteerd in een levendig dagvullend programma. Tevens wordt de fonkelnieuwe, bij BETER …

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