Hot Flashes? Cool!

 

Science and art collide in an unexpected collaboration between Janet, a medical researcher, and Michael, a music professor. Learn how Michael used real medical data to inspire music that would capture the experience of a hot flash for Janet’s exhibition.

Just because a conversation is important doesn’t mean it’s easy - or commonplace. Hot flashes, and menopause in general, is a health transition shrouded in myths, negativity, and confusing information despite the fact that it's a natural and important part of every woman's life. Dr. Janet Carpenter hopes her traveling art installation, Hot Flashes? Cool!, can use a variety of mediums to engage the public and elevate the conversations about the very real experience of hot flashes shared by women going through menopause.

“Our main purpose is to educate the public so they can have a meaningful conversation about menopausal hot flashes, whether that’s with family and friends or a healthcare provider.”

– Dr. Janet Carpenter

For over twenty years, Dr. Carpenter - who was surprised to learn how little we knew about hot flashes - studied the symptoms and worked to help clinicians better understand treatments for hot flashes. But her big idea was to share this information with the public in a way that was relatable and interesting. It’s a testament to Dr. Carpenter’s abilities as an artist and a storyteller that she got the first few of us at 12 Stars Media who spoke with her - all guys in their 20s and 30s who knew practically nothing about hot flashes - so interested in helping her to tell her story.

Rocky Walls, Director, first introduced the project to the whole team by playing a clip from Mrs. Doubtfire in which Robin Williams is preparing dinner dressed as the eponymous nanny and unintentionally sets fire to his prosthetic chest. "I confessed to the team," Rocky explains, "that this scene was the extent of my knowledge about hot flashes and I meant it." The demonstration was intended to be lighthearted, but also a genuine representation of where most of us stood in terms of how little we knew about hot flashes and menopause. We were all excited to learn more, especially since the project combined so many things that mean a lot to us - the intersection of art and science, bringing attention to an important, but underdiscussed topic, and working with people who allow us creative freedom to experiment!

 
 

Through a series of videos, we were able to introduce the genesis of Hot Flashes? Cool! (above) and explore two examples of the mingling art and science used in this engaging installation. Just as Dr. Carpenter’s vision is to take visitors on a journey through her installation, it was important to us to take the viewers of our videos on a similar journey with the ideas and characters at the center of the story. One video (top) focuses on taking our cameras behind to scenes to document the collaboration required to transform medical data into music, while another (below) would require a kind of camera none of us had ever used before.

When Dr. Carpenter explained that she'd previously explored used medical thermography to show the actual temperature changes on the surface of a woman's skin during a hot flash, we came up with the idea to hijack the familiarity of everyday objects to make the technical concept more approachable. Everyone has personal experience with a mug heating up after being filled with fresh coffee or with the radiant heat pouring from the top of an active toaster. So, we first turned the thermal camera on that mug and that toaster as they slowly started to warm. Then, we introduced Dr. Carpenter and a woman experiencing a hot flash to tell their story together.

 

We were inspired to help Dr. Carpenter tell her story in large part because of the light it shines on a common experience we still don’t talk about. We believe strongly in the power of video to create meaningful dialogue and, in doing so, build stronger communities. This series of Hot Flashes? Cool! videos was natural for us to produce because the installation itself shared this vision of the power of art to connect people.

“In the world of constant connectivity and communication, it’s a little hard to believe there are still really important conversations that just don’t happen. We’re honored to help Dr. Carpenter create conversation and community around hot flashes.”

– Rocky Walls, Director

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