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Read the on-line version of the catalogue for the 'ALIVE: Art Between Life and Science' exhibition at York Art Gallery that showcased these works.
Two large panels explore the treatment and recovery pathways of patients with blood cancers. The works were created by the artist in collaboration with the Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics Group in the Department of Health Sciences at the University.
Unlike some other cancers, social factors do not contribute to the occurrence of blood cancer. However, research shows that people from a lower sociodemographic have a more challenging journey through treatment and, in the case of severe conditions, a higher mortality rate. The artist was struck by this inequality and wanted to draw attention to it in his work. In the panels each line of rust represents a patient journey. The more polished the surface of the concrete, the longer and smoother the line, conveying the correlation between the nature of the journey and its outcome. In one of the panels the lines are randomly arranged and in the other they are ordered, echoing the manner in which the epidemiologist processes his/her data so as to uncover underlying trends and patterns. The artist is additionally able, through the suggestive use of material, colour and form, to expose the individual human and empathic dimensions which lie behind the collective epidemiological data.
An illustrated anthology of poetry and two film-poems and were inspired by a residency in the University’s Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII). Partnering with Dr Dimitris Lagos and other members of the Centre, Christy (as poet) and Kate (as visual artist) focused on research into healing. They set out to explore two questions – how do we recover from damage and how might we express that recovery as faithfully as possible?
Both artists were struck during their time in the CII with the parallels between art and science, which they observed similarly highlight everyday wonders while tolerating uncertainty in pursuit of the new. Contrary to the popular perception of the language of science being full of impenetrable jargon, they found rich poetic and metaphorical potential, as well as analogies to the literary and filmic spheres, in the language that the scientists used to describe biological processes – terms like ‘transcription’, ‘editing’ and ‘silencing’.
Anna spent several weeks in the laboratory of Professor Maggie Smith in the University’s Department of Biology immersing herself in its important research into identifying new anticmicrobials. She made a series of images which incorporate Streptomyces coelicolor, a harmless bacteria which normally lives in soil. Like many bacteria, it produces several antibiotics that are active against other bacteria when under environmental threat. The bacteria were grown on an agar medium that made them produce lots of pigmented antibiotics and used to stain squares of material which were arranged into a grid in the final art works.
In a diptych entitled ‘Viral Interventions’ one image shows more of the red antibiotic than the blue. In the other, only the blue antibiotic is present because the bacteria have been genetically modified to only synthesise this one. In both images, on some of the squares of silk, patterns were drawn over the bacteria using a medium containing viruses that kill the bacteria so no antibiotics could be made in these zones to stain the silk.
The collaboration was part sponsored by TARGeTED an EPSRC funded project.
‘Listening and Silence’ is digital art installation inspired by computer simulations of what scientists think people with cochlear implants hear. It has been created in collaboration with Professor Quentin Summerfield in the Department of Psychology at the University of York, a leading specialist in the area of cochlear implant research.
Cochlear implants are medical devices that do the work of the damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide a sense of sound. In this work each loudspeaker represents an electrode stimulating a frequency band in the cochlea. Words and sound effects are played through the system while the person walks around. After a while the individual’s ears start to learn how to interpret some of the signals and start to recognise some, but probably not all, of the sounds.
This artistic exploration of what a person with a cochlear implant might hear also raises questions about the ethical issues surrounding the introduction and use of such implants. Whilst some people view them as a positive introduction, others believe they threaten the Deaf Community by promoting deafness as something which should be ‘cured’ and risking its specialist language.
During his residency, York based artist Peter Myers collaborated Dr Hannah Thompson and Dr Katie Slocombe in the Department of Psychology to explore Aphasia (communication difficulties) in stroke survivors. He also reflected on his own experience of having Asperger’s Syndrome, which can bring its own challenges in communication.
He produced three canvases of brain scans that depict the brains of stoke survivors with significant areas of damage and three canvases of scans of his own brain which show no evidence of Asperger’s. Peter created also a number of intricate pen drawings which again feature the human brain. This time however the contours are delineated by thin lines of text which explore scientific explanations and personal responses to each condition.
This digital interactive artwork was created by the artist in collaboration with Professor Michael Brockhurst and Ewan Minter (formerly of the Department of Biology), Prof Ambrose Field (Music), Dr Sandra Pauletto and Fiona Keenan (Theatre, Film and TV), Prof Helen Petrie (Computer Science), Ashley James Brown (electronic artist) and Laurent Novac (programmer).
This work is part of an ongoing investigation by the artist into the symbiotic-like relationships between the sculptural forms she creates and the participants who help to produce them: how social connections can be materialised. The artwork invites the public to animate a piece of drapery made of thousands of particles of light which respond to the participant’s hand movement. As a second person enters the sculpture, the drapery will fully come to life, like an ephemeral connecting skin. Complementary responsive sound motifs, designed by sound designers Dr Sandra Pauletto, Prof Ambrose Field and research student Fiona Keenan, enter the minds of the participants to strengthen their sense of symbiotic connection with the work.