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Biomedicine in museums

Phillip Warnell's current art/research work at Medical Museion

By January 24, 2009No Comments

Artist Phillip Warnell (see earlier posts about his movie ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ and his pill camera installation) is just now visiting Medical Museion, where he is researching possibilities for a number of visually and conceptually driven projects.

Firstly, Phillip is guest-editing an issue of The Performance Research Journal on the theme ‘Transplantations’ (see more here). As well as inviting contributions from an interdisciplinary group of academics, artists, biomedical researchers etc, the plan is to have a photo-editorial series of inserts, with images corresponding to broad notions of transplantation. Phillip is therefore working with Medical Museion’s collections on visual research forms, sourcing material that can be appropriate for publication in this context.

Secondly, Phillip has for some time been generating material towards the development of a theatrical/peformative project on the simultaneous spread of theatre and the plague across Europe. In 2007, whilst researching at Hotel Dieu in Lyon, he came across a pattern for an original plague doctor mask, part crow, part breathing apparatus. He have had three such replica masks manufactured, and is hoping to combine these photographically (at a later date) with the enigmatic plague ambulance held in the collection (a black synergy), along with undertaking collaboratively some more ‘forensic’ research into the rather mysterious origins of the ambulance itself.

Finally, he is working in a project financed by Leverhulme Trust (a fellowship) entitled ‘The Anxious Object’, looking for points of connectivity between objects and their properties (material and psychic), psychology, invisible phenomena or other discreet supplements. The model for this idea has been his performative group portrait working with the sole surviving baquet of Franz Mesmer, housed in the Museum of Medicine and Pharmacy in Lyon. This portrait involved photographing separately, and assembling digitally, a group who collectively surround this extraordinary therapeutic object, intended to balance one’s animal magnetism. The current research, significantly, draws from a number of biomedical archives and personal collections, assembling what may become a part publication, part sculptural project, one highlighting the essentially a-visual.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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