Biomedicine in museums

Curatorial and artistic techniques in investigating and presenting (biomedical) bodies

By November 27, 2009 No Comments

We are of course not the only museum that struggles with how to juggle art, science, materiality and medicine in our exhibitions. Next Friday, 4 December, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at University of Cambridge is organising a most interesting afternoon symposium titled ‘Assembling Bodies: Art, Science & Imagination’.

Curators and artistic contributors to MAA’s current experimental exhibition with the same name will explore techniques of investigation and presentation — including relationships between the body and material things, the potential of exhibitions as research projects, incorporating different sensory engagements in museum display, and accommodating multiple audiences.

After an opportunity to see the current exhibition there will be four presentations:

Anita Herle, ‘Exploring the body in the arts, social and bio-medical sciences’:

How do we know, experience and create different bodies? How have different bodies been imagined, known and acted upon in different times, places and disciplinary contexts? This presentation will examine the creative potential and challenges associated with curatorial techniques of assemblage and juxtaposition.

Mark Elliott, ‘Putting the pieces together: negotiating parts and wholes in Assembling Bodies’:

Exhibits about the measurement, classification and distribution of bodies highlight ways in which fragments, measurements or representations can ‘stand’ in for larger categories or entities, such as body, type, or human. This paper considers how the curators negotiated the relationship between parts and wholes, highlight the contingency as well as the potency of some of the technologies that make bodies visible.

Jocelyne Dudding, ‘Shifting images: Using ‘anthropometric’ photographs in museum display’:

This paper discusses the historic use of ‘anthropometric’ photography in the collecting and classifying of information of human bodies. It explores how anthropometric methods of photography were followed in some instances, and resisted or ignored in others, why other photographs were recontextualised and used as ‘anthropometric’, and how contemporary artists have responded to such classification.

Bonnie Kemske, ‘Capturing the Embrace: a sculptural engagement with Merleau-Ponty’s ‘lived experience’:

The inclusion of ceramic ‘hugs’ in Assembling Bodies challenges the dominance of the visual within exhibitions, makes us question our perceptions, and leads us to a more engaged understanding of personal relationships to art. Capturing the embrace as ‘cast hugs’ engages the body’s sense of touch as a way to merge the body as subject with the sculptural object: ‘… not the thing on its own, but the experience of the thing.’ [Merleau-Ponty 1962]

Admission is free, but spaces are limited. Mail to reserve a place. If it wasn’t for the damned carbon footprint I would be tempted to fly Easyjet Cph-Stansted-Cph for a one-day trip. Why not videocast the presentations?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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