Wednesday, 21 December 2011

PROJECT ANATOME: Refining the focus for Wellcome Trust Arts Award

PROJECT ANATOME has gone from strength to strength in a matter of weeks. This wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment and enthusiasm from all the professionals involved, especially Dr Gabrielle Finn (co-applicant) and Ian Simmons (Centre for Life). Their input has proven invaluable and rich in inspiration. 

With the deadline for the Wellcome Trust Arts Award on the horizon, I have devised a logical framework for the project’s objectives and I can visualise the physical art making likely to take place.
Read on. And please offer any comments,advice, or additions you feel may help. No artist creates magic inside a self-contained vacuum...

For the previous post on PROJECT ANATOME click here

Wellcome Trust Arts Award deadline: 27th April 2012

Wellcome Trust Arts Award granted:  August 2012


Collaboration between Artist (myself) and Scientist (Dr Gabrielle Finn at Durham University)

As the artist, my intention is to contextualise the teaching of anatomy within the public domain. Its my role to present to, engage with and influence perceptions of the general public by orchestrating a public display of the artwork inspired by research performed within the academic institutes that most would have little or no access to.

As a scientist, Dr Finn is interested in contextualising the teaching and learning of anatomy in the clinical setting, and in turn, influence the approach to medical practice and public health.  By enhancing the teaching and learning experience during the early stages of medical academia, ie. anatomical studies, it will improve the success of doctors post-degree and practitioners within public health.

Activity commences 3rd October  2012 (first day of academic year at Durham University)

4 main areas:

1.      PROJECT ANATOME: Durham anatomy lab

Observation of anatomical teaching techniques for phase 1 and 2
These techniques include clinical images, body painting, virtual human dissector, ultrasound, anatomical models and cadaveric specimens.

Durham University are pioneers in alternative anatomical teaching, aside the traditional application of cadaveric studies. Prof. J. McLachlan and Dr G.Finn have expertise in the research of anatomy teaching, with extensive involvement in conferences,  publications, national and international anatomy committees, and teaching.

Inspired by the research outcomes from these observations, I will devise creative activities for Patient Study activities (see below)

2.      PROJECT ANATOME: Patient Study

The treatment of chronic illness forms an increasingly large part of the doctor's load in the UK today, particularly in primary care. The Patient Study aims to provide you with the opportunity to observe first hand the impact of chronic illness on a person and on their immediate family and/or carers in the community”
(Undergraduate Medicine, School of Medicine and Health, Durham University)

This will form the main framework for the Wellcome Trust Arts Award. My interest lies with the discourse of ‘illness’ and ‘disease’, and how the practical learning and teaching of anatomy and physiology (biological) is contextualised in the clinical practice concerning chronic illness (psychological, social). Reference will be made to the biopsycosocial model within the medical studies, and the potential for creative intervention in its teachings.

Here, I’ll focus on the Patient Study for phase 1 to study the effect of integrating creative activities alongside the verbal communication between student and patient.  This component of the course provides students the opportunity to observe first hand the impact of chronic illness on a patient during the early stage of their anatomical and biological studies. Thus, exposing them to an individual’s experience of illness (personal) alongside studies of objective disease (scientific), helping to keep their aptitude for sensitivity, empathy, and compassion active during phase 1 when desensitisation to patient experience is threatened by a scientifically focussed syllabus. 

I will choose 4 Patient Studies within the phase 1 cohort to focus on, each examining different chronic illnesses. I’ll perform medical research into the 4 specific chronic illnesses, and the biological, psychological and social aspects concerned (biopsychosocial)

I’ll attend the student-patient meetings on 3/4 occasions and observe the content, context and interaction within the session. This study will allow the observation from a 3rd person perspective.

For the latter period of these sessions (March – May 2013) I will devise creative activities for the patient and student to engage in, both practical or via demonstration, which have been informed by the observational research performed within the anatomy labs

These activities may involve participation in drawing, sculpture, mixed media, photography, audio visual, printmaking and literature, and will:

a)      invite the student to respond to patient’s biological condition (disease)
b)      invite the patient to respond to the experience of their condition (illness)

The Aim: to enhance the student – patient engagement and communication during the Patient Study process, by introducing physical art making alongside verbal communication. The activities also offer the patients an opportunity to engage with the therapeutic value of creativity, and provides the scope for further exploration into the practice of art therapy.

For example:

Chronic illness: Cystic fibrosis (an inherited disease that affects the lungs, digestive system, sweat glands, and male fertility. Its name derives from the fibrous scar tissue that develops in the pancreas, one of the principal organs affected by the disease)

Present both patient and student with plaster casts of an empty lung cavity, taken from an anatomical lung model. Provide the student with medical images/photographs of the visceral effects of the condition, and invite them to recreate using mixed media materials. Provide the patient with the same plaster cast and invite them to render the physical sensation of suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, using mixed media materials.

The Patient Study activities will explore the power of medicine over the diseased body, aside the management and treatment of the illness experience. Patients commonly feel in the hands of their doctors, with the medical treatment of their disease out of their control or influence. Creative activities within the Patient Studies will facilitate expression for such patient experience, communicated from the patient to the student

Also, the activities will delve into the domain of illness narrative and the barriers of language communicating illness experience and pain.

3.      PROJECT ANATOME: Research and Development

I will be attending fortnightly visits to Northumbria University Anatomy Teaching Centre and Newcastle Anatomy and Clinical Skills Centre.

Here, I’ll observe the teaching of anatomy and clinical skills to years 1 and 2, with access to a broad range of techniques, laboratory environments and cadaveric specimens.

Northumbria teaches with anatomical models and a limited supply of plastinated specimens, in contrast with Newcastle, who teach with anatomical models, wet specimens and prosections in jars from a larger collection. 

Academics : Prof. Roger Searle (Newcastle), Dr. Brian Curry (Northumbria)
Lab technicians: Brian Thompson and Helen Mears (Newcastle), Stephan Boddy (Northumbria)

January 2013: Trip to Warwick to visit Prof. Peter Abrahams

I have established contact with Prof. Abrahams after being introduced to one another by Stephan Boddy at Northumbria University. We are now in contact, and plan to arrange a visit in January 2013 to observe his teaching techniques, including the innovative 3D modelling used at Warwick.

He also has a collection of Gunther Van Hagens plastinates. So, I will certainly be paying him a visit!

      4.      PROJECT ANATOME: Artist Practice

Throughout the observational research in the anatomy labs, I’ll design, produce and implement alternative teaching techniques, devices and models that:

a)                  Involve the process of creativity in their production
b)                  Involve creative participation from the students

The purpose of this is to trial alternative methods of engaging students with anatomy teachings via artwork and creativity. Evaluated, these trail outputs will then inform the designs for the Patient Study activities for student and patient participation.

These techniques may include drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, audiovisual, creative literature; the possibilities are endless!

I’ll be delivering practical sessions and discussions on the creative techniques implemented, presented their purpose, use, relevance, and effectiveness.

Evaluation is vital, so I will devise a qualitative method of evaluating the effectiveness of the techniques (in collaboration with Dr Finn, and her expertise in qualitative and quantitative methods of anatomy teaching)

Activity concludes 22nd June 2013 (last day of the academic year at Durham University)

22nd June 2013 – 1st September 2013: TIME TO CREATE!

Creation of exhibition artwork inspired from the observations, research and development, evaluation, and general experience throughout the academic year

To create the work, I’ll have access to a Newcastle based artist studio and art making facilities including ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, woodwork etc. As of yet, this is unconfirmed, but I intend to ‘put my feelers out’ at the end of 2012 to research the possibilities.

The artwork will challenge the conventions of modern anatomical education, in its common use of artificial models and techniques separate from the clinical context,  and the likely desensitisation of students’ approaches to illness experience. I want the art to present the reality of the corporal condition in an authentic, sensual manner, and arouse the audiences’ response to viewing ‘abject’ representations of bodily disease.

September 2013 – November 2013: Public Engagement

Exhibition at Life Bioscience Centre, Centre For Life, Newcastle

Exhibition at Newcastle Clinical Skills Centre

November 2013 – 2014

Touring exhibitions at venues, Science Centres and museums nationwide.

Ian Simmons (Centre For Life) will have significant input throughout the duration of the project, and will act as co-ordinator for the touring exhibitions. His connections with the science establishments nationwide will act as the leverage for the touring potential. He is also an avid macabre fanatic, which makes our project dialogue extremely entertaining!

In conjunction with the touring exhibitions, I will deliver talks and workshops in relation to PROJECT ANATOMIE, and establish awareness of the Wellcome Trust Arts Award. 

There may even be scope for a solo exhibition at Wellcome Collection...

Exciting things to come!

Sunday, 27 November 2011


On receiving the news that my solo show at Kings College Cambridge had been cancelled (scheduled for 2012), along with the refusal of access to Cambridge University's anatomy lab for a pre-show residency, I felt deflated. After virtually navigating around the entire University's network of medical and clinical departments, and weeks of a wild email goose chase, I felt defeated...

Having already been awarded three solo shows at various venues around Newcastle, for the traveling phase after Kings College, and having completed the first draft of an Arts Council Grant....I paused.

'To bite the bullet': Accept the inevitable impending hardship and endure the resulting pain with fortitude.

It would have been far easier to give up and accept this defeat. But my artwork has never sprouted from 'ease'. Its roots are nourished by endurance, persistence and faith.

And so, I bit the bullet and began to dream up PROJECT ANATOME.

I began by asking myself the simple question: “what is it that excites me about anatomy?” My answer – the cadaver. I emailed Newcastle Medical School – every finger crossed – hoping for a response to my proposal of access. Contact with the Director of Anatomy and Clinical Skills, Dr Roger Searle, was a success! We arranged a meeting for the end of October. As I waited, I got to work on a shining proposal of creative persuasion.

Dr Searle deemed my project possible and expressed great interest in my visions. As with most University Professors that share the same territorial soil, Dr Searle had working experience with the head of Northumbria and Durham anatomy labs, and thus, encouraged me to share my project with them.

Several emails and meetings later, I had been granted access to both Northumbria University Anatomy Teaching Centre and School of Medicine and Health at Durham University.  At first, correspondence with such high profile academics felt daunting. But each professor and doctor showed great interest in my proposed project, and committed to offering their support in whatever capacity I presented (obviously, within reason...!)

Professor John Mclachlan at Durham University was particularly encouraging for me to apply for a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, as he has proven success with previous grant applications:

Obviously, I presented a willingness towards this opportunity (...with every attempt to display my excitement as professionally as possible!) and simply said "DEAL!"

And so, in brief:

ACTIVITY FOR 2011 - 2012

DECEMBER 2011 - APRIL 2012

  • Weekly visits to Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham anatomy labs (via a rotation) for visual research
    • Wellcome Trust Arts Award (deadline January 27th,) (decision end of April): academics involved - Prof. J McLahlan and Dr. Gabrielle Finn (Durham), Dr. Roger Searle (Newcastle), Dr. B Curry (Northumbria, Ian Simmons (Centre For Life)
    Sketches from jar specimens at Newcastle anatomy lab (Thursday 17th November): 

    (More sketches and notes from my observations to follow...)

    If awarded the Wellcome Trust Arts Award:

    SEPTEMBER 2012 - JUNE 2013 
    • Wellcome Trust Project at Durham University, during the entire academic year, integrated into phase 1 & 2 of Undergraduate Medicine Degree.
    • Weekly visits to Newcastle and Northumbria anatomy labs, medical libraries, and other primary and secondary research sources.
    • Evaluation of Wellcome Trust Project and creation of final artwork and outcomes for scheduled exhibitions.
    SEPTEMBER 2013 - 2014
    • Exhibitions commence: Centre For Life (confirmed)
    • Other Science Centres and Museums nationwide (managed by myself and Ian Simmons) 

    (Alongside the exhibitions, I will deliver creative art workshops on anatomy and artist talks related to my research project)

    SEPTEMBER 2012: Newcastle Art Centre

    NOVEMBER 2012: The Holy Biscuit, Biscuit Factory

    NOVEMBER 2012: Life Bioscience Centre, Centre For Life

    NOVEMBER 2012:  Anatomy and Clinical Skills Centre, Newcastle University (private exhibition)

    Additional exhibitions:

    Contact with Ian Simmons, Director of Science Communications at the Centre For Life, has opened up opportunities for further exhibitions nationwide. He has established links with science museums and centres around the country, and I hope to utilise his expertise in this field, alongside his enthusiasm towards my project (and mutual love for human anatomy!)

    And so, the possibilities for research and exhibitions are endless. 

    I remain realistic. If I am unsuccessful in my Wellcome Trust Arts Award, I will submit an application for an Arts Council Grant to fund the scheduled exhibitions and creation of artworks. If I am unsuccessful in this application, I will follow the re-submission process and keep trying. I really believe in the strength, viability and potential for this project; both artistically and within the academic arena.  The need for creative expression exploring arts and science (and everything in between) is ever evolving.


    On any given day, there are messages I long to arrive in my inbox…

    Friday 25th November didn’t disappoint.

    Stephan Boddy, the anatomy technician at Northumbria University, mentioned he had established contact with Prof. Peter H Abrahams during his BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences  

    Details of Prof. Peter H Abrahams

    He sang  the Professor‘s praises for his enthused commitment and support to anatomical research, and promised he would pass on my proposed project to him, in the hope of a similar assistance. He replied via my website:
    Stephan from the anatomy at Northumbria said you were interested in 3D anatomy and plastinates - can I help in any way, Phantom of the Fens? We have a collection of Von Hagens specimins I had prepared especially for teaching medics.
    Goodness knows what ‘Phantom of the Fens’ means but, again, DEAL! And he has Gunther Von Hagens specimens, oh my!

    He has a reply waiting for him. A trip to Warwick to meet the professor is on the cards; grants or no grants!

    Things are moving quickly. Sometimes feels like too quickly. But I’m not reaching for the pause button yet.

    If declined the Wellcome Trust Arts Award:


    • Application for Arts Council Grant, and other avenues or funding
    • Continue weekly visits to Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham anatomy labs (via a rotation) for visual research 
      EXHIBITIONS (solo shows)

    Friday, 25 November 2011

    Chapter 4: the final beginning

    Saturday 19th November
    25 Stratford Grove

    50 minute performance

    From day to day, how conscious are we of our bodily presence? The space our bodies occupy and the profile we project onto our environments and others? On a sunny day, we may encounter a distorted view on the pavement, or experience a sense of our bodily boundaries during sexual intimacy.

    From day to day, we layer ourselves in clothes to adorn, conceal, conform, accentuate, disguise our bodies’ profile.  Do these garments make who we are? Do they determine the feeling of being embodied in ones own skin?

    Take away these fibrous layers and we are confronted with our skin; the ultimate layer that separates us from the world. Confronted with this world, we embody this skin to protect, insulate, and classify ourselves.  

    What happens if this skin, and the body it shrouds, feels diseased, toxic, filthy, foreign, possessed, dangerous?

    What if the profile cast by such corporal form appears unruly, strange, deformed, unsafe?

    Chapter 4: the new beginning explores the routine shedding of skin through the repetitive removal of apparel. It questions our subconscious consent or aversion to map our bodily presence, and the authority this has over our emotional and cognitive existence.

    The mapping of the body in motion - changing shape and leaving varying weights of traces - holds a mirror up to our self, our bodies and our skin, confirming the flux we breathe through.

    My heart goes out to all you who were present with support, love and silent affection. And of course, to 25 Strateford Grove. I love you Carole. You all made an indescribable difference to the performance; without you, this would have proved more of a struggle x

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Arto Polus

     Photo by Arto Polus

     Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny


    Photo by Arto Polus

    Photo by Kimberley Emeny

    Photo by Arto Polus

    Carole Luby on Chapter 4: the final beginning

    It was damn nearly perfect actually. I take a while to let my thoughts assemble into some kind of object; which is made up of, duration, sure, solid, enduring, deliberate, purposeful, engaged.

    Yes, at the beginning I felt irritated. How long would be those awkward movements, undressing, and wall marking go on for? And then, suddenly, quite unexpectedly, my mind rested into a rhythm that was between flight and fight. And I settled down. Into the obdurate and exquisite sound of the pencil on the wall.

    Occasional forays into sharpening the graphite. A look on your face of pain, even terror at moments; a sensation of willing this all to be born. To be reborn. A feeling of torment and desperation. A body worn down with care, labour. A body enduring all the inner turmoil of not knowing, forcing and experiencing its constant states of abjection.

    Beautiful. Quiet. Calm, even. A hush and concentration filled the small, cold, white room. A body surrounded by light, unconcerned with an ending; just a duration of movement in space.

    An ending. A looking into the mirror. Us looking at you in the mirror. The mirror looking back at you, at us. All of us together. All of us not separated.

    An ending. A pause. Time to leave. I felt very moved. Very loving.

    Wednesday, 2 November 2011

    Old Master slides await re-animation

    An offering from a fellow macabre enthusiast.

    Lisa Temple Cox kindly gave permission for me to dive into several buckets of Old Master slides she had recently rescued from immanent death.

    My fascination is not concerning the slides themselves.
    Remove the slides and the artwork titles become somewhat abstract and mislaid. Void

    Following on from the slide drawings produced during the summer residency, where coincidentally, I met Lisa Temple Cox, I'd like to try my hand re-illustrating the artworks by title.

    Themes fresh to mind from a quick sift through the pile of slides - mortality (obviously): oddities, freaks and monsters: man v's nature: images of gender: procreation and birth...

    But we'll see.

    more titles shortly