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

PROJECT ANATOME

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!