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Hunterian Museum

With some of us never having visited the Hunterian Museum, we realised that we were morbidly curious. An eclectic mix of organs and skeletons from different species all museologically arranged to encourage discovery. It was difficult to gauge our own thoughts and opinions; having the opportunity to see internal components whilst thinking about the morality of objectifying the dead (similar to the experience had by students on the anatomy course).

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It was intriguing how this microscope was used in the 1840’s as a scientific instrument, however now we are using it with more of an artistic purpose. Displaying the microscopic to Scouts, rather than keeping it within the confines of the science industry.

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Reflection of the Anatomy Course

Recently, my fellow peers from across UAL and I participated in the Kings College anatomy course. This was an unique opportunity to talk to professionals in the medical industry, while learning a range of techniques that are used in medical art.

Being at Kings college allowed artists to view a diverse range of specimens and engage with a more hands on approach. This was a wonderful experience to be able to study the textures and details of the human body as well as identifying their abnormalities. The course leader Eleanor Crook, historically a lecturer at UAL Central Saint Martins, now specialises primarily in wax sculptures has been a leading tutor at Kings College for over a decade. We learnt the key components of the body and how they work while also understanding the historical context of medical art and key artists that challenged the practice.

As the course progressed, we moved away from examining jarred specimens to drawing cadavers (dead bodies) in the dissecting laboratory. This enabled me to closely study the internal features of the human body; understanding why medical art is so necessary for the present day. Talking to Eleanor Crook allowed me to address peoples concerns of balancing art and science whilst understanding how she overcame these limitations that arose in the medical art practice. One of the main highlights of the course was experimenting with wax. Layering this different medium onto a plaster cast skull was more engaging than the drawing aspect of the course. It enabled us to learn the different names and functions of the facial muscles, whilst getting stuck in.

The anatomy course was a unique experience which has extended my knowledge of human development in my own practice. Overall, I feel that any artists wanting to challenge the notion of art and science should participate in the course.

Below you will see art works drawn by me and and two fellow artist in 4D2PS

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Making a Zine

To document the Scout workshops, we decided to make two zines displaying these different outcomes. One consisted of microscopic images taken by the children with a hand held microscope, the other containing printed microscopic images of snake skin manipulated with the use of various media. The zines are colourful and playful in-keeping with the our intention to make art and science accessible to children. This also represents our attempt to understand how they were able to engage with these disciplines.

Out of hundreds of microscopic photos, we narrowed them down to the images that produced the biggest reactions and interest from the Scout kids. Although with a distorted quality, we were still able to discern what some of the images were. Similar to our experience with the Hunterian Museum and the Anatomy Course, it was amusing to be subjected to their addiction to morbid imagery (finger cut) because they piloted the hand-held microscope.

By talking to Dr Darren Nesbeth, making a zine seems only natural as even the best scientists document their findings in publications. In regards to this project, we have concluded that the children are as important to this project, so deserve a momento of the experience – which hopefully we will be providing in the coming weeks.

Zine of the microscopic snakeskin colouring-in

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Zine of microscopic pictures;

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Interview with Dr Darren Nesbeth

IMG_1536Dr Darren Nesbeth is currently a lecturer at UCL, a member of the Royal society of Biologists and member of the institution of chemical engineers. He specialises in the themes of Bioprocessing and Synthetic Biology. We were able to get in contact with him after going to explore ‘London Hackspace’, located in Bethnal Green; a shared space which provides for a variety of disciplines, including a laboratory for the members of ‘BioHack’. Through writing to the club, Dr Nesbeth generously gave his time to discuss his past experiences with art alongside his profession.

He discussed taking part in a project and competition named ‘International Genetically Engineered Machines’ (iGEM). The multidisciplinary group he had advised in 2010, managed to gain a gold medal whilst competing against 128 other universities around the globe. During this period, he was able to work with a Central Saint Martins (CSM) student, David Bennett, and a past Slade School of Art (UCL) student, Giulia Ricci. Together with students from Biochemical Engineering and Science and Technology, their project produced a technology which boost productivity and reduce the cost of drug production. We would like to try and email the practitioners mentioned as they too show an interest in the art and sciences.

For our group, it was fascinating to be able to get a point of view from a scientist who had engaged with art through many different experiences. In some cases, Dr Nesbeth suggested that scientists can have the capacity to potentially dishearten or demoralise artists. In the broadest terms, an example would be collaborating to make a new material, which incurs in a realisation that the process can take long periods of time; something that could be too prolonged for an ever changing and developing art practice.

On the other hand, artists have the ability to inspire scientists or engineers into becoming artists themselves. By comparison, Dr Nesbeth proposed that there are similarities between the two disciplines. Ideas of this could be the creative process of experimentation in order to achieve an intended outcome, as well as the craftsmanship which can be arguably involved in producing both art and aiding advances in science.

Thinking about the workshop that we had provided for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts to encourage and interpret their engagement with art and science, we asked Dr Nesbeth whether art can make science more accessible to the public. From this he questioned whether art is accessible to the public. In some cases, like micro-biologist and ‘Exploring the Invisible’ blogger Simon Sublime, artists can make mundane data and the unknown more tangible and ‘aesthetically pleasing’. This question is interesting and could be seen as rather controversial; one that us as a group cannot answer. However through our research from this project and the workshops completed, we could say that the overall experiences we and others have produced with the influence of science have been able to encourage emotive responses through discovery, experimenting and learning, allowing an appreciation of both disciplines.

Dr Nesbeth audio