Archive for the 'seminars' Category

abstracts, aesthetics, aesthetics of biomedicine, art and science, conferences, general, museum ethics, seminars

Drawing hidden truths (abstract for symposium Representing the Contentious)

I have just had a paper accepted for a very interesting symposium called Representing the Contentious, organized in London 14 October by Bronwyn ParryAnia Dabrowska and Wellcome Trust People Award.

My presentation contains many images from my PhD Delineating Disease: a system for investigating Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva that were not presented to the public for reasons I will discuss.

Drawing hidden truths

How do you show disease in a way that reveals new insights, is clear, informative, is understandable to members of the public as well as to medical experts, and yet remains respectful to the subject? And what if this research is also set within the context of the medical museum where processes of preparation and display must also be considered?

In an artistic research PhD, a system using drawing as a valid research methodology to investigate a rare disease was developed. It presented a breadth of experiences of a disease called FOP and also revealed the disease within the context of museum conservation and display. The activity of drawing was shown to both initiate the act of looking and evidence the journey of understanding taken during this process. It involved actually spending time in the presence of people and objects, and forming relationships. This commitment maintained dignity and respect for people and objects, and the drawings were seen to be informative and sensitive. Drawing was used not merely to record, but as a participatory activity. Evidence showed the research revealed new insights, confirmed medical opinions about the progression of the disease and presented a far greater breadth of experiences of FOP than previously seen.

But the impact of this research also had unexpected consequences. Certain drawings were not included in the exhibition that formed part of the final research exposition, as they were deemed unsuitable. Medical experts were ‘shocked’ by drawings presenting the methods involved in preparation of donors with the disease. These processes integral to the research, hidden behind the scenes of the museum, were not what the experts had expected to see.

But the greatest impact was on the people with FOP. I was completely unprepared for their reactions when they saw drawings of the disease. Their responses to being drawn were positive. They appreciated someone looking at them without staring, spending time with them, bothering to see them. Despite having seen their own X-rays, CT scans and read medical books, when they saw other drawings of FOP they were shocked. Unlike medical imaging, which requires training and experience to ‘read’, they ‘understood’ the drawings and felt their clarity revealed the hidden, terrible truth. They acted like a mirror. Conversely, they also felt it was vital the research was shown to make people aware of this rare disease.  The responsibility of this is something that has weighed heavily on me. Despite the research being seen to be valid, insightful and useful, it also had unseen consequences. What form of exposition should these contentious elements take, should they be shown at all?

aesthetics of biomedicine, art and biomed, displays/exhibits, events, future medical science and technology, general, science communication studies, seminars

Synthetic biology — science, art, design

After more than half a year of budget negotations, Medical Museion is now officially part of the EC 7th FWP programme-financed project StudioLab.

Inspired by the merging of the artists studio with the research lab to create a hybrid creative space, STUDIOLAB proposes the creation of a new European platform for creative interactions between art and science. STUDIOLAB brings together major players in scientific research with centres of excellence in the arts and experimental design and leverages the existence of a new network of hybrid spaces to pilot a series of projects at the interface between art and science.

Science Gallery in Dublin, Le Laboratoire in Paris, Ars Electronica in Linz, Royal College of Art in London, and MediaLab Prado in Madrid are the five major partners — and the rest of us, including Medical Museion, are six associated partners (which means we get less money — but also have less responsibility).

StudioLab will involve activities along three key dimensions: incubation of art-science projects, education and public engagement. Medical Museion’s part of the contract is to create a public engagement-oriented installation and event about synthetic biology (i.e., the next hot topic in the life sciences).

So now we are on the outlook for good ideas! And I thought we might get some inspiration from the seminar titled ‘Organizing collaborations: Synthetic biology, social science, art and design’ that Jane Calvert from INNOGEN, Edinburgh, is giving here in Copenhagen on Thursday:

Something that makes the emerging field of synthetic biology particularly interesting is that diverse groups including social scientists, ethicists, lawyers, policy makers, artists, designers and publics are becoming involved in the field from the outset. In this presentation, Jane Calvert explores the opportunities and challenges provided by these new forms of collaboration, drawing both on her own experiences as a social scientist studying synthetic biology, and on the Synthetic Aesthetics project, which brings synthetic biologists together with artists and designers.

This is very much along the lines we’ve been thinking in the StudioLab context.

The seminar takes place Thursday 22 September, 3-5 pm, in room K4.41, Kilevej 14A, Copenhagen Business School. Be sure to register for the seminar by email to before 19 September.

body, seminars

Moral aesthetics and moral constraints in representing and replacing bodies

A month ago, we submitted a grant application for a new major exhibition about human remains here at Medical Museion. And now we are looking for new interesting approaches to the display of such contested artefacts.

A damaged San Sebastian, Medical Museion, 2009

Besides the mere aesthetic fascination in these kinds of artefacts: what interesting conceptual approaches can we take to the topic?

Shall we play on the preservation of human remains in the classical age of anatomy vs. the new age of biobanks? Or on the relation between preserved human remains vs. their buried counterparts? Or on the parts of the body that are taken out and turned into artefacts vs. non-living artefacts that are inserted into the body?

There are plenty of possibilities, and historians of medicine, science study scholars, anthropologists  and so forth can provide a number of analytical perspectives to help make such an exhibition more interesting.

Which means that we are very interested in what anthropologists Lesley Sharp and Janelle Taylor have to say in a seminar titled ‘Representing and replacing bodies’ that our joint Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies (CMeST) organises together with the Dept of Anthropology on Friday 23 September, 10.30am-noon.

Lesley Sharp will speak about ‘Virtuous Science and its Moral Constraints in Experimental Organ Replacement: An Anthropological Assessment’ and Janelle Taylor about ‘Romancing the Real: Moral Aesthetics in Medical Education and Research’. The seminar takes place in room 10.0.11 in the CSS-building complex on Øster Farimagsgade 5, Copenhagen.

Later in the day, Lesley, Janelle and a handful of of CMeST-people will meet here at Medical Museion for an informal discussion about possible conceptual approaches to the planned human remans exhibition. I’ll be back with more thoughts about this later.

abstracts, conferences, events, general, seminars, senses

Final call for presentations at The Sensuous Object workshop, 29-30 September

Here’s the final (and somewhat extended) call for presentations at the workshop ‘The Sensuous Object to be held at Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen, 29-30 September, 2011

‘The Sensuous Object’ is an interdisciplinary, participatory workshop concerned with ways we actually engage with objects and aimed at researchers in all disciplines interested in the materiality of actual artefacts and ways of understanding objects through the senses (smell and touch, ambience, aesthetic, visual thinking, tacit knowledge, sound and seduction).

1. An actual, material object must be central and a present part of the workshop. This artefact should be or relate in some way to objects found in medical museums.

You are welcome to arrange to choose an object from Medical Museion collections,
or bring your own,
or if you send a photo of an object from another medical museum I can try and find an equivalent here,
or if we can’t find it you can use an image of an object.

2. Engagement is vital; emphasis is on demonstration, experimentation and participation.

3. This is an opportunity for presenters to try out ideas and test new formats in a friendly environment where the starting point for discussion is the object present rather than previous research results.

We anticipate the definition of sensuous and approaches to presenting understanding of materiality of objects to be varied, even experimental!

How we experience and understand objects as sensuous objects that have been realized, produced, consumed through and by our senses, and how they impact on us and how we impact on them, are just a few of the expected discussion topics. By inviting participants to choose actual objects and use them as central to their presentations, the aim is to challenge established concepts and reveal new possibilities in our experiencing of and understanding through objects, using sensuous approaches. It will provide opportunity for presenters to test ideas, try out new formats of presentation and discussion, and examine their own research through the sensuous object.

The idea for this workshop began as a way to research objects from Medical Museion’s collections and for the objects themselves to form the basis of further research. Medical Museion is a university museum at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, with an extensive collection of historical medical objects from the 18th through 20th centuries and with internationally award-winning exhibitions. Its field is the history of health and disease in a cultural perspective, with a focus on the material and iconographic culture of recent biomedicine. Research at Medical Museion is seen as essential to underpinning university teaching strategies for collection and conservation of medical heritage, exhibition making, and other material-based communication practices.

Speakers are invited to present their understanding of an object in terms of their methodological approaches and areas of research. Research areas of confirmed participants include senses of smell and touch, ambience, aesthetic, visual thinking, tacit knowledge, sound, and seduction.

Confirmed speakers:
Laura Gonzalez (Glasgow School of Art)
Ansa Lonstrup (University of Aarhus)
Anette Stenslund (Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen)
Jan-Eric Olsén (Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen)
Carsten Friberg (Aarhus School of Architecture)
Mats Fridlund (University of Gothenburg)

Postdoc Lucy Lyons ( and PhD student Anette Stenslund (, Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen, 18 Fredericiagade, Copenhagen (

More information:
If you are interested in presenting, please email a 200 word abstract by 15 JULY. If you would like to participate but do not wish to present, please email a paragraph about your area of research by 5 September. Contact:

‘The Sensuous Object’ workshop is free and Medical Museion will provide tea and coffee breaks and host lunch on both days and a drinks reception on 29 September. Participants will need to arrange and pay for their own travel and accommodation.

aesthetics, aesthetics of biomedicine, art and science, general, museum ethics, seminars

Representing the contentious

I found this interesting – consider it in light of museum materialities and aestethics:

“The symposium will also consider why academic and artistic projects are
subject to different degrees of ethical oversight and how the final
outputs of such projects are shaped by their prospective consumption in
the public domain.”

See below for the full call


Representing the Contentious:  A Symposium

Dr Bronwyn Parry and Ania Dabrowska, Artist
Mind Over Matter, Wellcome Trust People Award

Call for papers.

14th October, 2011

10 am – 4 pm

Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT

Representing the Contentious is a one-day interdisciplinary symposium
that will examine the complexities of creating and representing work
(whether academic or artistic) that, due to its ethical, political, or
cultural sensitivity, its subject matter or research methodologies, has
the capacity to cause or provoke controversy, offence or condemnation.
The symposium will examine how the production of such work is negotiated
not only through the personal relationships of those involved but also
through formal institutions such as Ethical Review Committees. The
symposium will also consider why academic and artistic projects are
subject to different degrees of ethical oversight and how the final
outputs of such projects are shaped by their prospective consumption in
the public domain. Contributions are welcomed from academics or artists
who wish to take part in this ‘insider’s view’ of representing the
contentious through a mixture of critical discussions and presentations.
The symposium will run in parallel with Mind Over Matter, a Wellcome
Trust funded science/art exhibition about brain donation and the search
for a cure for dementia that will run at the Shoreditch Town Hall, 11-23
October, 2011.

You are invited to submit proposals for presentations of your academic
papers and art projects for consideration.  Proposals should include a
short bio and either an abstract for academic papers or a project
statement for artists with image files (up to 8 JPEGs or PDFs up to 2MB
each). A collected edition of these works is planned for future
publication. Please email proposals to the either of the co-authors of
the Representing the Contentious Symposium and Mind Over Matter Project:
Dr. Bronwyn Parry at  or Ania Dabrowska at

Submission deadline: 15 September, 2011
Participating organisations: Wellcome Trust, Queen Mary University,
London, CFAS, CC75C studies, The University of Cambridge.  For
information about attending the symposium please contact Mind Over
Matter at:  or visit  –
Mind Over Matter.

curation, displays/exhibits, material studies, news, seminars

Martha Fleming on “Museum as Material, Exhibition as Scholarly Publication” at the Danish Royal Academy of Art, Friday 1 April, 1-3 pm.

Martha Fleming, who was head curator on our award-winning exhibition Split & Splice: Fragments from the Age of Biomedicine (2009-2010) will speak at the Danish Royal Academy of Art on Friday 1 April. The title of her talk is “Museum as Material, Exhibition as Scholarly Publication”.

What does it mean to consider an institution to be a kind of ‘material’? What sort of research is it possible for an artist to effect inside a science museum? What does research itself mean in different scholarly contexts, and how does the artist facilitate interdisciplinarity beyond the studio and the gallery? This seminar will be of interest to those who want to know about intellectual and logistical issues of working with non-art museums, those whose conceptual work engages with science practice and history and philosophy of science, and those interested in the work that has come out of the radical aesthetics of 1980s site specific projects. Martha Fleming has made large-scale site specific installations, museum collection interpretation projects, and now works at the Natural History Museum in London. She will be speaking about her work as an artist, as a museum professional and as an historian of science.

The lecture takes place in the Italian Auditorium, 1 Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen,  at 1 pm.

Some background reading:

  • Studiolo: The Collaborative Projects of Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe (Artextes 1997)
  • “Feminisms is Still Our Name: Seven Essays on Historiography and Curatorial Practices”. Editor: Malin Hedlin Hayden and Jessica Sjöholm Skrubbe (Cambridge Scholars 2010)

museum studies, seminars

Museum exhibitions between labour and grace

Mikael Thorsted and Martha Fleming working on our Container Wall installation

Shall museum exhibitions exude labour or grace?

That is, shall they reveal the hard work gone into producing them?

Or shall they appear effortless and graceful, concealing the many hours of curatorial work?

Just a decade ago, museums tried to hide the curators’ efforts; what mattered was the final product as the audience saw the show.

Today’s trend is to show the hard labour behind the scenes, even invite the visitors into the production line (museum 2.0).

I was induced to think about the shifting relationships between the notions of grace and labour when I read the announcement to a lecture by italianist Ita Mac Carthy (Birmingham) on the interconnections that characterise the literature and visual arts of the Italian Renaissance:

For Castiglione and Raphael

grace is a classically-inspired nonchalance, a certain ease and confidence that should accompany everything the ideal Renaissance citizen says and does. It is the art of concealing labour, of coaxing the public into thinking that what they see springs from nature not nurture.

For Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna, by contrast

one achieves grace by revealing — not concealing — the hard work that goes into art. This grace resists humanist connotations, criticises courtly abuses of the term and promotes a more Christian vision of the artist as the receiver rather than the giver of what is essentially God’s gift.

The lecture takes place on Wednesday 16 March @ 3.15pm in the Royal Library, Copenhagen — if you wish to attend, please write to two days before.

ageing, seminars

Negotiating the aims, methods and results of ageing research

If you are interested in medical science studies, you might consider visiting Medical Museion on Thursday 28 October at 2PM.  Tiago Moreira (School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University) will speak about “Ageing in Technological Democracies”:

Social gerontology has until recently been mainly concerned with the structural and cultural contexts through which age identities and practices are organised. This has been enriched by current debates about the extent to which these identities are constrains on individuals or represent ‘reflexive opportunities’ of re-invention, and by the increased recognition that knowledge and representations of ageing play a central role in these social and political processes. In this paper, I explore the growing importance of processes of collective negotiation about the aims, methods and results of research on ageing. Drawing from a documentary analysis of an on-going public controversy about access to dementia drugs on the National Health Service and the role of ‘quality of life’ measurements within it, I examine how patient organisation, charities, clinicians, health economists and policy makers confront different understandings of the ageing process in their quest to assess the value of therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease. I argue that these differences can be explained by relating them to divergent perspectives on the relationship between the experience of ageing, ageing research and the politics of health and social care. I conclude by suggesting ways through which a ‘technological democracy’ could include groups and concerns that have remained at the margins of the knowledge making process in contemporary societies.

Tiago is trained as a sociologist and has written extensively about “the complex worlds that are enacted in contemporary biomedicine, with particular attention to the role of technology in the orders of medical work, the use of health technology at home, the collective production of health care standards and the politics of clinical trials”.

Arranged by Center for Healthy Aging, Theme 5: Communication and Innovation (in which Medical Museion takes part with a postdoc project and two PhD-projects). Further info from Lene Otto ( or myself (

displays/exhibits, public outreach, seminars

Wellcome visitors to Medical Museion

Medicine and health are too important subjects to be left to scientists only. That is one of the main ideas behind the Wellcome Collection of London. All their exhibitions are medical, but they are never just medical. There is always something more. Like the ’War and Medicine’ exhibition which was accompanied by art video installations of wounded soldiers in Afghanistan.

      lisa jamieson l      james peto l

Last week we hosted an informal seminar with senior curator James Peto and event manager Lisa Jamieson of the Wellcome Collection. One of the topics was the relationship between scientific research and public engagement in a museum context. As head of Wellcome Collections Public Programmes Team Ken Arnold said: “Research should be publicly relevant and public relations should be research rich.”

Another discussion was about how we use our senses in the exhibition. Sounds, smells and visuals have an important part to play in the modern museum. Events were the museum objects are brought back to life, or art works that challenge our formalized understandings of what goes on in the human body, are some of the ways to engage the visitors. Another is to use the web media; live streaming surgery or engaging in online discussions. Or blog about what goes on behind the scenes …

Watch video from the seminar here:

history of medicine, seminars

The rising star of the brain

Even though the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL is heading towards its ultimate death, it is still organising some pretty interesting seminars. For example, Maximilian Stadler’s (MPI-WG, Berlin) talk, titled ‘Cerebro-centrism and the History of the Neurosciences’, on Thursday 13 May at 4pm:

‘Surely the rising star of body parts in the 1980s’, historian Elaine Showalter noted in 1987, must have been the brain. Its rising star – largely, of course, thanks to the impressive expansions of the neurosciences ever since – then also made coalesce a field of historical scholarship which usually, and perhaps a bit too sloppily, is labeled just that: the history of the neurosciences. Timely enough an endeavor it is; histories of the neurosciences, however, are hard to come by in the history of the neurosciences. In a sense, no such histories yet exist. What exists, more properly, are cultural histories of the brain: stories of its cultural meanings, the social malleability of concepts, and the historicity and historical specificity of brain-centred discourses and practices.

The brain is indeed hardly a surprising choice of subject matter for the history of neuroscience; but, as I am going to argue in this talk, it is a historiographically far from unproblematic one. The case against the casual conflation of a history of the neurosciences with that of the brain I am going to develop by way of detour through the case of cybernetics – a particularly cerebral, and insufficiently problematized, vision of the neuroscientific past.

On my reading, the centrality accorded to cybernetics in historical accounts of mid-twentieth century neuroscientific developments is, more than anything else, a function of the public and intellectual visibility of cybernetics. As such, it is symptomatic of the broader, cerebro-centric tendency that is the subject of this talk: at best, the tendency to obscure crucial spaces of inquiry that are indeed all-too-easily glossed over in the necessarily manifold origins of neuroscience – devoid as they were, as I shall suggest, of the brain, of ‘culture’, and the philosophical excitement cybernetics once generated; at worst, the tendency to conflate cultural histories of the brain, of the mind-body problem, and of discourses of human nature with the diverse and, more often than not, quite mundane nature of neuroscientific advances.

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