vs.MS Interpreted: An Artistic Expression of the Physical and Emotional Impact of MS

Image of vsMS Interpreted logo
We believe that when we know more, we can do more
Our vs.MS initiative and survey findings have brought to light the raw emotions—isolation, anxiety and self-esteem—felt by people living with and affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).

Our goal is to learn from these findings and provide the MS community the ability to make better informed decisions about care and to reimagine our expectations of life with MS.

This week marks the 32nd annual meeting of the Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS). Each year, this meeting offers us the opportunity to further showcase our leadership in the MS space through our commitment to advancing science and addressing unmet needs among all those living with this potentially debilitating disease.

Building on the momentum of our vs.MS initiative, this year, we are bringing a unique experience to conference attendees with vs.MS Interpreted—an art exhibit that demonstrates the raw emotions and issues faced by people living with and affected by MS, as uncovered in the initiative’s global survey findings.

“The message is about empowering those in the MS Community to take a close look at how the disease impacts their day-to-day life and using that recognition to empower them down the path of making better informed decisions about care,” said Kersten Sharrock, Global Lead, Public Affairs & Advocacy, MS, Sanofi Genzyme. “We learned that many of the artists had not used their MS as inspiration for their art previously and it has truly been an honor to watch them on this journey of discovery. Like many living with this disease, they have all overcome significant challenges, some which have been brought to light as part of vs.MS Interpreted.”

But we could not do it alone. To launch vs.MS Interpreted, we partnered with Shift.MS - a non-profit social network where people with MS meet, share experiences and support each other. Together, we asked nine artists living with MS to use their personal experiences with the disease as a catalyst for creative output. The inspiring artwork was created as the artists’ interpretations of the vs.MS survey findings that had particular meaning to them.

“I had the opportunity to work closely with the artists throughout this process and I must say it has been quite moving,” said Sam Billington of Shift.MS. “One of the core beliefs at Shift.MS, and one I know the folks at Sanofi Genzyme share, is that MS should not limit someone’s ambitions. This project enabled us to not only support working professionals but offer them the chance to truly explore the emotions associated with their disease in a new way. Something that vs.MS Interpreted has brought to light is that while individuals may come across similar themes while living with MS, their interpretation and responses can vary dramatically. I’m humbled to be part of a project that connects people to the human factors of this disease.”

More than half of vs.MS survey respondents living with RMS find memory issues to be limiting on their daily activities

Aaron's interpretation

Aaron is an artist and painter living in Sydney, Australia who was diagnosed with MS four years ago. His creative process led him to embark on a voyage of discovery, interviewing groups of people living with MS to further understand how people deal with memory issues on a day-to-day basis.

Image from MS Interpreted art gallery
When we see the potential for loss to enrich our lives, we cease to see it as a deficit. This isn’t denial: It’s the fact that what gives me meaning is rarely an absence: It’s the fact that life is full of richness and mystery.
Aaron, artist, Sydney, Australia

Influenced by his findings, Aaron recalled a place from his memories, a view over Bondi Beach in Sydney, which he used to regularly visit with his father to watch him paint. Aaron went on to explain that he examined the parallels of the beach setting and the way this relates to the uncertainties of memory. Focusing on the mysterious transience of light and the archetypal nature of sunsets, Aaron’s artwork explores the way we prioritize our recollections and that, despite the cognitive challenges faced by people living with MS, perhaps even our most poignant memories cannot be eroded.

More than half of single vs.MS respondents worry that their RMS will impact their ability to find a partner

India's interpretation

Taking inspiration from her own thoughts and anxiety about finding a partner, India, a graphic designer from London who was diagnosed with MS just over a year ago, created a collection of images depicting typical relationship scenes and exploring the alternatives—presenting life both with and without a partner. She captured scenes in a 50 / 50 split to emphasize the percentage of single vs.MS survey respondents who share these fears, illustrating the range of emotions associated with this theme, while also revealing parts of her own story.

Image from MS Interpreted art gallery
The future is still up for grabs—you don’t have to give up your life.
India, artist, London, England

1,075 RMS patients and 580 RMS Care Partners participated in the 20-minute internet survey between July and August 2015. All respondents were 18 years or older. The survey was conducted in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, UK and US.

To learn more about this program and the artists, follow our activity at #ECTRIMS2016 on Twitter @SanofiGenzyme.
Last update: 09/14/2016

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