Art is frequently used with science as a method to engage audiences, from the general public to those who are harder to reach. Art-science collaborations are becoming increasingly more frequent, being fostered by organisations such as the Wellcome Collection and the Barbican. However, there is little known about the processes of collaborations and the successes and pitfalls of these relationships.
In 2019, we completed a pilot of our latest art-science collaboration ‘A Picture of Health’, which is the latest project pioneered by Amanda Fisher and builds upon a long and fruitful relationship between the MRC LMS and Central Saint Martins. This pilot was commissioned to prepare for the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) to complete a large-scale project involving 100 commissioned pieces of art-science work.
Why ‘A Picture of Health’?
“A Picture of Health” is a broad phrase that invokes different ideas, thoughts and feelings for different people. It was the richness and range of emotions, imagery and perceptions that ‘A Picture of Health’ conjures that inspired the idea of the project. The development of the new building for the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences has provided the right timing to encourage artists and the public to explore and share their understanding and thoughts of what ‘A Picture of Health’ means to them.
What did the pilot involve?
In this pilot, we explored what artists, researchers and varied members of society interpret by this phrase.
The pilot began in June 2019 with a workshop full of thought-provoking talks from researchers from a range of institutions. The phrase “A Picture of Health” was explored through these talks across six key themes, guided by the MRC Spotlights: Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection; Artificial intelligence and Big Data; Diet and Lifestyle; Environment and Ageing, Genetics and Assistive Technologies; Mental Health and Dementia.
The Picture of Health workshop talks were captured beautifully in these visual minutes courtesy of Woven Ink.
The second half of the workshop was a facilitated discussion where scientists, artists and creative facilitators all sat down to delve a little deeper into each of these six themes and to sow the seeds of inspiration for how ‘A Picture of Health’ could be portrayed in art form.
Artists submitted artwork proposals in collaboration with a researcher about the ideas they intended to explore through their pieces of art. Five artworks were selected and co-created with researchers over the summer to not only explore the topic, but to also be used as conversational and programming tools to discuss the following topics with the public; sleep, anti-microbial resistance and infection, big health data, memory loss in neurological and psychiatric conditions and health and the environment.
The ‘A Picture Of Health’ Exhibition
On 18 and 19 November, the co-created artworks were showcased at a pop-up exhibition at Elephant West in White City as a culmination of the pilot phase.
The second day of the pop-up was filled with community programming where local community groups were invited along to the exhibition to engage with the artworks, as well as welcoming visitors from the public.
Over the course of the summer as the pieces were being co-created. The artists also received engagement training so that they could create a complementary activity to discuss the research behind their artworks to facilitate discussions on that topic with community groups and the public.
‘A Picture of Health’ on tour
On 27 November, the Picture of Health pop-up exhibition went to the Science Museum Lates which was themed around ‘Art and Science’.
The Picture of Health pop-up became part of a more varied program of activities at the Science Museum. It opened up discussions with a different branch of the public; those who weren’t actively going to engage with the topics. However, the environment meant that the audience could spent longer actually talking to the artists about each of their topics, and their own takes on ‘A Picture of Health’.
What’s next for ‘A Picture of Health’?
In 2020, we want to launch the larger scale project which aims to commission 100 pieces of science-art that explores the meaning behind the phrase ‘A Picture of Health’ and incorporates the lessons learnt from our pilot in 2019.
This expansion of ‘A Picture of Health’ will continue until 2022 and culminate in a showcase of the pieces in line with the development and opening of our new building.