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Biomedicine in museums

Biomedical gestures

Science studies scholars seem to have investigated almost all aspects of science in laboratories — except bodily gestures. Artists Herwig Turk and Günter Stöger are now exploring this neglected dimension of science in their installation “setting04_0006″ which is on display in the group exhibit “Say it isn’t so” in Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen until 16 September 2007. See a Youtube video of the installation here.

“Gestures are part of laboratory life, as are objects and scientist”, Turk and Stöger point out. In previous projects (see, e.g. here) they examined the perception of spaces when humans were removed and objects assumed centre-stage: “The object created an unambiguous and sharp language conveying new meaning and an alien identity to the laboratory space” (sounds like a traditional museum gallery to me :-).

However, in “setting04_0006” both human entities and objects have been eliminated:

Only gestures remained, creating a continuous and complex sequence of movement. The repetition of a complex sequence of movement creates a primordial pantomime. However, at closer look, there is an intrinsic complexity in the movement. Due to the absence of external references and structural principles one observes in gestures accompanying language, the whole sequence is rapidly lost acquiring a rather crude and unsettling character of expression. They are little more than stochastic short sequences of movement. Ultimately meaningless. Yet, minimal contextual elements are still present: gloves, a white coat. Traces and clues that remind the viewer that this is part of a bigger picture, that was deliberately left out of each frame. (from

The installation is a useful reminder of one of the many aspects of science not captured by mainstream actor network theory. Turk and Stöger’s video contains no human entities, no objects, no actors — just gestures as abstract action.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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