Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Bodybuilding project

Recently, I have taken on bodybuilding as part of my artistic practice. Whilst using the unusual and specific techniques of female bodybuilding as art itself, I am aiming to allow my body to become a vehicle to explore physical concerns in an impersonal, critical yet artistic way. I hope to challenge stereotypical assumptions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, whilst amassing a framework of both qualitative and quantitative research and data. The project is also providing the background for a series of video and performative artworks, using themes of embodiment, mind over matter and further visual investigations into the relationship symmetry has to beauty. Here, it is my body itself, that will become the document of my practice.
I'll show more details as I go along...

Horticultural Healing residency with Groundwork - video stills



Horticultural Healing residency with Groundwork





Collaborations with Manuel Vason, Stuart Core (bodybuilder) and Christopher Howell (magician).


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Grimmer & Steele Trust at Plymouth Art Center

Are you a victim of your own over complicated emotional life?

The Grimmer & Steele Trust can help to provide you with a remedy.

We specialise in care enforcement, and can offer you a free perceptual augmentation session with the Trusts well-balanced carers. The session will provide you with a positive personalised package of sensory respite and reaffirmation - designed with you in mind.




Free Care was performed on the 28th Nov at Plymouth Art Center.



video

Monday, 23 June 2008

HUMAN/ANIMAL HYBRID EMBRYOS ARE 'EASY' TO MAKE

* HUMAN/ANIMAL HYBRID EMBRYOS ARE 'EASY' TO MAKE:
By Charlotte Maden:
The creation of human/animal admixed or 'hybrid' embryos is happening at a rapid rate, according to the experts developing them at Newcastle University, who say that the process is easier than they initially thought.
Speaking at the BIO biotechnology conference in San Diego last week, Dr Lyle Armstrong, leader of the human/animal hybrid embryo project, explained that the technique of inserting genetically empty cow eggs with human DNA from skin cells has already produced about 270 hybrid embryos. No other research group in the world has spoken of producing these embryos on such a large scale. 'We might be able to get eight to 10 human oocytes [eggs] of sufficient quality per month', Armstrong told the Financial Times newspaper. 'We can get 200 cow eggs a day from the local meat industry', he added.
The process was developed with the intention of overcoming the shortage in supply of human eggs for the production of stem cells, which are subsequently used for research into a wide range of currently incurable diseases, such as diabetes, strokes and Parkinson's. Amid intense opposition from religious groups and pro-life lobbies, Armstrong insists that the creation of these embryos is ethically sound. 'The embryos are mostly self-regulating, because they arrest naturally at 32 cells - which is quite good from an ethical point of view', he said, adding: 'There is no way these embryos could develop into a foetus'. The law does not permit the development of a hybrid embryo beyond 14 days.
Until now, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) granted permissions to research such as this on a case-by-case basis, since no existing law was applicable to it. However, the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is expected to pass through Parliament shortly and looks likely to provide a firm legal basis for hybrid embryo research. In January, the House of Lords refused to reject clauses in the bill that allow the research, despite pressure from opponents, and last month, MPs voted down a bid to ban human admixed embryo research by 336 to 176 votes and another to ban true hybrids by 286 to 223 votes.
- The Financial Times 20/6/2008 'Scientists find hybrid embryos easy to make'
- The Financial Times:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/96d72196-3e62-11dd-b16d-0000779fd2ac.html
- Life Site News 20/6/2008 'U.K. Researcher: Creation of Human/Animal Hybrid Embryos is Easier than Expected'
- Life Site News:
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/jun/08062006.html
- UK Trade and Investment 20/6/2008 'UK university's success with hybrid embryos'
- UK Trade and Investment:
http://www.ukinvest.gov.uk/OurWorld/4031904/en-GB.html

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Histopathology/cytology image work





The first two are made by layering different focal points on the same slide of brain tissue - the second is again, cellular damage caused by an STD from a cervical smear, I go through a similar process of layering different focal points from one slide, using symmetry and some colour manipulation to make the images.




Tuesday, 3 June 2008

THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION - Art and Tactical Magic





FRANKFURTER KUNSTVEREIN



AURÉLIEN FROMENT
"Théâtre de poche", 2007
Video Still, Video HD
Courtesy STORE and the artist



THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION –
ART AND TACTICAL MAGIC
June 7 - September 7, 2008

Opening: June 6, 2008, 7 pm


FRANKFURTER KUNSTVEREIN
Steinernes Haus am Römerberg,
Markt 44, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
phone: +49.69.219314–0
fax: +49.69.219314–11
post@fkv.de
http://www.fkv.de


The group exhibition 'The Great Transformation' presents works by a group of international artists who are interested in magic as a semiotic exercise. The show sets out to document a new interest that contemporary art production has taken in magic and the occult. Magic is presented here as a 'tactical' subject that can help us to understand the role of the artist and that of the viewer as a participant in the production and mediation of knowledge.

Beside works of well-known artists such as Allen Ruppersberg and Mike Kelley, 'The Great Transformation' presents numerous works of younger artists, who will develop new works for this exhibition. The artists articulate how magic can be employed as a methodology with a critical potential to challenge our views on society and notions of communication. Through a subject like magic, we gain a new perspective into the organization of social space, into the existence of grey zones between the rational and the irrational. In search of new ways of seeing and new channels for communication and cultural action, contemporary art production is conscious of the present ideological difficulties that deal with magic or the occult.

The Berkeley-based art collective 'Center for Tactical Magic' (CTM), founded by Aaron Gach, for example, aims to activate energies towards "positive social transformation" with the help of community-based projects and workshops in the public sphere. The direct involvement of the audience plays a significant role for this group of activists. Using practical aspects of 'tactical magic' as a fusion of different forces, CTM actively addresses individual, collective and transnational communities.

The French artist Aurélien Froment investigates disparate personal portraits and refers to aspects of magic and analyses special professional skills of handling images. Froment’s film Théâtre de poche, which was produced in November 2007 is linked to a comprehensive book project. In the film a magician introduces a series of card tricks and pictures, which seem to hover in a black environment. In the same way in which the magician is shifting his photos, cards and pictures above an invisible area, he and his surrounding become displaced on an imaginary axis in the film.

The works featuring in 'The Great Transformation' confront the spectator less with the visible but rather with the sensual and intuitive. The exhibition thus establishes a narrative of various possibilities for
cultural analysis.

'The Great Transformation - Art and Tactical Magic' features works by Jonathan Allen, Marcel Breuer, Center for Tactical Magic, Erich Consemüller, Roberto Cuoghi, Claire Fontaine, Aurélien Froment, Mike Kelley, Joachim Koester, Maria Loboda, Goshka Macuga, Michele di Menna, Eduardo Navarro, Olivia Plender, ride.1, Allen Ruppersberg, Kerstin Stoll, Joanne Tatham & Tom O'Sullivan, Banks Violette and Adrian Williams.

The exhibition has been produced in collaboration with MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, where it will be on view from September 19, 2008 to January 11, 2009.

SPONSORS: 'The Great Transformation' was made possible by the support of the American Center Foundation and by the Hessische Kulturstiftung. Partners of the exhibition are BDAP - bureau des arts plastiques, CULTURESFRANCE, Ambassade de France en République Fédérale d'Allemagne and The Danish Arts Foundation.

CATALOGUE: A catalogue with contributions by Lars Bang Larsen, Simon During and Chus Martínez will be published in German and English on the occasion of the exhibition.

VENUE: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo (19 September 2008 - 11 January 2009).

CURATED BY: Chus Martínez (Director Frankfurter Kunstverein)
OPENING HOURS: Tuesday–Sunday, 11 am–7 pm
INFORMATION: http://www.fkv.de
PRESS CONTACT: Julia Wittwer, Melanie Räuschel, phone: +49.69.219314–30/-40, fax: +49.69.219314–11, e-mail: presse@fkv.de, http://www.fkv.de
(texts and images for download under PRESS)

Monday, 2 June 2008

Cooperage at Royal William Yard






I visited the Cooperage at Royal William Yard today - the cooperage is a potential site to film the project but also exhibit. Fantastic space! Look how big it is!

I am really interested in making the work where it will be shown...
I feel that there is massive potential to use the vast emptiness of this space and bring it into the work....its a beautiful site,  strange cold architecture and symmetry.

Friday, 30 May 2008

a few little visual pointers...


These are a few images of Royal William Yard - where HH takes place. I have taken a few random images here - things that took my fancy when visiting.









where to start?

I find it quite difficult to know where to start, at the moment I feel quite clear (for an artist!) with my intentions - so I'm in the position of retracing my steps...

The ideas around the project are extremely exciting, - I am really enjoying it - if not actually physically bubbling over with anticipation of what the outcomes could be.

I have spent two days sort-of volunteering, sort-of getting to know how the project works at HH. I have met staff, several clients, and spent time gardening, sowing and digging. The whole experience of working there is in fact, therapeutic, calming and grounding. I have found it both a humbling and fun experience. It has lead to many different trains of thought and most importantly challenged my preconceptions of people with mental health problems & acquired brain injury - preconceptions that I didn't realise I had. I feel very privileged for the experience - which I find a rich source of thoughts, feelings and ideas for artwork (and life!).

For the outcomes of the project I have in mind both video works and a collaborative photographic project. There are threads bleeding in from the other projects I am doing at the moment - one working at the Histopathology lab at Derriford hospital in Plymouth, where I am using microscopes to look at and create images from body tissues and samples. During my time at the hospital, I am hoping to return to ideas of visual pattern, structure and repetition. To create images that use aspects of the basic composition and forms of the human body, informed by the histories of Fine Art; particularly the aesthetics of Arts and Crafts Movement. I am looking particularly at William Morris patterns and wallpapers, - attempting to make cellular reproductions or replications...

The other is a collaborative project with artist Newcastle based artist Paul Grimmer, and is very much influenced by health care environments and relationships. Together we are interested in attempting to provide a perceptual augmentation and sensory respite for individuals engaged in the appreciation of the arts. We aim to re-open or refresh the eyes of viewers through nurturing, care and self-affirmation.

You can find more about both these projects on my blog.

For this project my ideas started with the concept of suspension, along with Artworld staples such as, transformation and ideas around mortality. I know these are just initial and almost obvious starting points - and in some way may have negative connotations if you relate these ideas to clients. I am aware that there is the potential for a tight rope walk throughout the project - and that there are issues that require super sensitivity.

I feel it is possible to produce beauty from trauma and difficulty, that this can be universally conveyed and understood who ever you are.

I hope this is something of an introduction...

Update on the Artist residency programme at Groundwork South West

We are now in the position of one residency coming to an end, and of one in its early stages. Part of the first callout for artists ran thus:

‘We wish to develop an ongoing programme of contemporary art commissioning, and are keen to work with a wide range of practices including; performance/live art, sound art, video/film, installation, media, sculpture, and everything in-between and beyond. We are looking for artists who reflect our own organisation’s ethos and ideals and who therefore have a critical engagement with some or all of the following; public space (both urban and rural), environmental regeneration and sustainability, individual/community empowerment and participation.’

So we feel we are on track with attempting to use contemporary art in diverse contexts, focusing at present on regeneration, sustainability, empowerment and participation. Other projects are being developed in the areas of youth and also our environmental business team, Envision.

Clare Thornton’s project with Purist, a social enterprise in Paignton, is nearly complete. More on that, and details of the launch event follow.

Our second residency was intended to be a collaboration between ourselves and ZEST at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. As such, Trystan Hawkins at ZEST compiled a shortlist and the artist Francesca Steele was selected by him and staff working on the Horticultural Healing project in Royal William Yard in Plymouth. However, ZEST’s expected outcomes have shifted, with the result that the collaboration will no longer proceed as planned. Instead, the residency will focus solely on the Horticultural Healing project, although the resultant work will very likely be shown on Derriford Hospital’s many flat-screens.

Horticultural healing works with individuals with mental health issues and acquired brain injury, taking the form of ecotherapy.

Francesca Steele is an emerging artist with high profile exhibitions in her portfolio, including performances at the National Review of Live Art for the last 3 years. Two large public exhibitions - the Belsay Fellowship for Picture House at Belsay House in Northumberland and for Nexus in Newcastle, both in 2007, had audience figures in excess of 200,000 And 140,000 respectively. Steele’s collaborative work with Manuel Vason has been exhibited at Arnolfini, Bristol and in the book Encounters – performance photography collaboration, again produced by Arnolfini 2007. She is represented by Waygood Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne.

I will attempt to keep individuals up to date with developments on launch dates and other events on an ongoing basis. More anon.

Ray White

Strategic Arts Coordinator

Thursday, 29 May 2008

back to blogging...

I have been quite busy for a while, and now just starting to get a chance to look over and reassess my work and thoughts, -where and how things are going...

A lot of my previous posts were related to the INTERACT placement at PEALS in Newcastle, my work has moved on or rather, 'side-stepped' since then, although I still hope to do more work with PEALS in the future. Currently, I'm working on three main projects, all very much centered around the body, our relationship to it, and how to care - how to give - questions around the wealths of bad or damaging experiences - can they have/provide beauty, positive affirmation, or be truly positive/valuable? -If so, is it forever a tainted beauty, enveloped in niggling reminders of damage? Trauma gives a different perspective... don't know if this makes sense - ahhh! that'll be the brain dribble! Thinking about it already makes me feel like balancing on something high without a safety mat...

Anyway, the three projects are: Artist in Residence at Horticultural Healing, ran by Groundwork Devon and Cornwall. I have started a separate blog for this at horticulturalhealingresidency.blogspot.com

I am also Artist in Residence at Derriford hospital, in Plymouth. I have been commissioned to create a series of artworks for the histopathology lab there - which basically deals with all the parts of the body that are removed from surgery. The department also includes the cytology dept - which looks at cells, -it's where all the specimens are prepared and read. The department also includes the morgue and autopsy dept.

During my time at the hospital, I am hoping to return to ideas of visual pattern, structure and repetition. To create images that use aspects of the basic composition and forms of the human body, informed by the histories of Fine Art; particularly the aesthetics of Arts and Crafts Movement. I am looking particularly at William Morris patterns and wallpapers again, and attempting to make cellular reproductions or replications...


Here is one of the early images - this is using material from the cytology department, it is a microscopic image of a cervical smear - which is showing cell damage from an STD. I used the orginal material to create the symmetrical image - which begins to (for me!) relate to tile patterns, floral structures etc...
www.zestarts.org.uk



The third project I am working on is a collaborative performance project, with artist Paul Grimmer. The project is very much centered around caring and rehabilitation, and developed from a need to recover from Live Art Events!





The project is very influenced by health care environments and relationships. We are interested in attempting to provide a perceptual augmentation and sensory respite for individuals engaged in the appreciation of the arts. We aim to re-open or refresh the eyes of viewers through nurturing, care and self-affirmation.

Here is a little blurb and our logo - to give some idea...



Our collaboration began several years ago as artist-led group Piggyback (www.piggybackarts.org), based in the North East of England, offering support structures to students and recently graduated artists with digital and live art practices. We have recently come together again to work collaboratively on the Grimmer & Steele project, based around ideas of care and rehabilitation. Initially we had thought that this relationship would be more centred on digital works, however, we have found that our live art practices yielding and beneficial to our collaborative process. We are currently exploring through process ways to expand our collaborative language and ultimately create new works, which balance between our joint concerns and our individual autonomy – whilst still producing a cohesive and coherent ‘group’ identity.

Our joint concerns have largely been informed by our own personal experiences, which tie in with certain themes approached in the work. Our current aims for the project are based around certain personal and shared experiences of working in the live art sector - feelings that may be associated with participating in a live art event, either as a performer or an audience member: not (fully) understanding, not wanting to participate, feeling pressure to adhere to performative codes of conduct and etiquette and needing to regain perspective…

The work that we have been developing acts to remedy to these difficult, and potentially debilitating conditions. Operating on the borders of what could be understood as live art and what may also be seen as group therapy, meditation or rehab. Our aim is to create a series of situations where the viewer is led through the engagement of various exercises – this occurs within a framework of physically and psychologically modified environments, often employing sensory control as a tool; allowing one sense to rest, whilst another challenged. The work aims to operate somewhere on the border where genuine care, becomes a vulgar display, anaesthetising the viewer but also provoking feelings of disquiet.



There is a lot more to say about all of these projects...

About Horticultural Healing

The text below is taken from the Groundwork Devon and Cornwall website


The project uses horticulture as a therapy medium for people recovering from mental health problems or acquired brain injuries. In the late 1990’s we were working extensively with unemployed people through our Intermediate Labour Market programmes and through this work it became clear that mental health was a significant barrier to employment. As a response to this we set up the Horticultural Healing project in 2001. Since then we have helped 126 people and 31 return to work (either paid or voluntary). The project has helped us to develop the specialised knowledge and skills needed to work with this client group through horticulture and we have developed good practice procedures to deliver the project.

The project makes the following differences to people:

· Build confidence and self esteem

· Help towards getting a job or other volunteering or training opportunities

· Increase independent living

· Reduce reliance on medication

· Support personal development

· Enable socialisation with other people

The project achieves this by giving people the opportunity to undertake a wide range of horticultural activities including growing plants and vegetables from seed, weeding, potting on, pruning and grass cutting amongst other things. Our clients, with support, work on horticultural schemes such as maintaining and developing plant nurseries, a zen garden, wildlife areas, vegetable plots and formal grounds maintenance.


We provide each client with support and help depending on their needs. These needs are assessed and monitored throughout the length of time a person stays on the project. There are regular client review meetings and discussions with referring agencies to assess improvements or evolving support needs.

The location, the identified need and our history of successfully running projects of this nature in the past mean that this project is the best way to meet our outcomes and address the identified need.


PROJECT ETHOS

We believe that a person’s recovery from mental health or an acquired brain injury is an individual process and everyone is different. It is for this reason that we engage participants in setting their own action plans and why participants are allowed to remain on the project for as long as it takes for them to get better.

We believe that horticulture is a valuable means towards recovery for our participants. This is because of the tactile nature of the work through touching plants, playing with dirt and using tools.

We believe that being outdoors has both physical and mental benefits for people. Whether this is simply being in the fresh air regardless of the time of year or weather conditions or whether it is benefiting from the healing qualities of the sun.

We believe that our Horticultural work provides a non-intrusive relaxed environment from which participants can learn to walk again or interact with others on the project depending on their needs.


PROJECT OUTCOMES

Often full recovery is reliant on long term intervention and the opportunity to get out and do something in an environment that can adjust to their physical and mental needs, that challenges and moves people forward in a constructive way towards measurable physical, mental and emotional improvements, employment and independence. Participants often need something constructive to take part in to aid their recovery and build their strength and confidence.

Our Horticultural Healing project can provide that. We take referrals from psychiatric nurses and social services who want placements at suitable sites so that their clients can slowly start to integrate with other people again in a well supervised and friendly environment.

We have recognised powerful changes in our participants addressing some of the symptoms for mental health and acquired brain injuries. Each person arrives at the project with a different set of physical, mental or emotional needs. Recovery requires an awareness that this work can take a long time to achieve small changes such as: walking from the office to the poly tunnel without taking regular rests, being able to complete tasks that require long handled tools rather than hand tools working on our raised beds or communication improvements and learning socialising techniques.


The outcomes listed below are generic project outcomes.

· Improved Employability:

· Reduced Isolation:

· Increased Physical Activity:

· Improved Social Well Being and Psychological Health:

· Improved Personal Independence



PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND DELIVERY

The project is run by two full-time employed supervisors, overseen by a Programme Manager and supported by 6 volunteer supervisors. Staff have experience and knowledge of supervising volunteers in a horticultural setting. They have an understanding of the needs and complexities of working with mental health problems and acquired brain injuries.

We believe our Horticultural Healing project is a vital scheme that supports a number of people with a range of mental health problems. We know we can make a real and positive difference to people lives.



Tuesday, 26 February 2008

UK CATHOLICS ASKED TO OPPOSE FERTILITY BILL:

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has sent a pastoral message urging Catholics to write to MPs in opposition to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which will be debated in the House of Commons in the coming weeks. In his message, the cardinal wrote that: 'Many people of all faiths and none are deeply concerned by the moral questions raised by this Bill', adding, 'taking action on this pressing issue now helps to remind us that our Christian witness can never just be personal but involves us too as citizens committed to serving the common good of society and to upholding the human dignity of all'.
Most Catholics are against using human embryos in research and have expressed widespread opposition to the Bill. The Church has also expressed its concern that the Bill presents a threat to the importance of the father in the upbringing of a child. Catholic MPs have called upon the Prime Minister to permit them to vote according to their conscience when the Bill reaches the Commons.
The Government-backed Bill contains proposals that extend embryo research in the UK to allow scientists to create embryos containing both animal and human genetic material for research. The Bill will also permit both partners in a same-sex civil partnership to be named as legal parents on a child's birth certificate and will remove the current need for IVF clinics to take into account the child's need for a father.
Meanwhile, embryos have been granted legal personhood under French law after the Cour de Cassation, France's highest appeals court, ruled earlier this month that three couples could register their miscarried fetuses to enable them to give the embryos an official burial. To be placed on the civil registry, an embryo must be under the age of 22 weeks and weigh under 500g.
The decision has been supported by French Catholics, who believe life begins from the moment of conception. 'The Church's position is that we must act as if the embryo were a person', said the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois. 'This means that a fetus has a status,' he said commenting on the ruling, 'what has happened in the past 50 years is that the legal status of the embryo and fetus has been rapidly changed. They have been turned into things'. But abortion proponents have expressed caution that the decision will give impetus to pro-life campaigners, although it is believed the ruling will not affect France's abortion law.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11837

http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=56733

http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL195583120080219

Monday, 10 December 2007

Failing to learn from mistakes



Our ability to learn from making mistakes may be linked to whether or not we carry a particular gene variant which affects our brain's reward system, according to research published last week in the journal Science. The discovery may help to explain why the variant has previously been linked to addiction, say the team.
When we carry out an action with positive consequences, it triggers our brain to reward us by increasing levels of a pleasure chemical called dopamine, thus helping us to learn to repeat that action in the future. In the absence of such triggers, dopamine levels drop removing the incentive to carry out that action again.
Individuals carrying the gene variant - called A1 - have less dopamine docking stations; reducing any reward that they may experience in response to a beneficial action and, in theory, making it harder for them to 'learn from their mistakes'.
The researchers, based at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, looked at 26 men - twelve of which had the A1 gene variant. The ability of each volunteer to learn to repeat a beneficial action was tested by asking them to choose between pairs of random symbols on a computer screen and asking them to work out which had positive consequences. After each selection, either a smiling or frowning face would appear to signify whether their choice was positive or not.
The researchers found that those with the A1 variant found it harder to work out which symbols triggered positive consequences, suggesting that they were less successful at learning to avoid mistakes. Brain scans indicating that areas of the brain thought to be linked to learning were more active in those lacking the A1 gene variant supported these findings.
Although the research suggests that 30 per cent of people carry one copy of the gene variant and three per cent may carry two, it is important not to jump to any conclusions says study co-author Tilman Klein. 'One has to be cautious be saying that 30 per cent are affected - we just found that they have problems in learning to avoid negative action outcomes. But thesituation we tested them was an artificial laboratory setting. Therefore more research is needed to show how our findings apply to real world situations', he told The Daily Telegraph.
The discovery may help to explain why the variant has previously been linked to addictive and compulsive behaviours, but it is by no means the full picture said Klein. 'It's our strong belief, that the variant we investigated here is not the only cause for example of an addiction - but maybe it contributes to a predisposition for developing an addiction'. he explained to The Daily Telegraph.

By Ailsa Taylor

- The Daily Telegraph 7/12/2007 'Failing to learn from mistakes is
genetic'
- The Daily Telegraph:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/20
07/12/07/scimistake106.xml

- Nature 6/12/2007 'The gene that makes us once bitten, twice shy'
- Nature:
http://www.nature.com/news/2007/071205/full/news.2007.358.html

Friday, 16 November 2007

Tensions and Ambiguities



Images taken from the Electronic Atlas of the Developing Human Brain.


I recently completed the first part of my a placement at PEALS - which is the Policy, Ethics And Life Sciences research Centre, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

'The Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) Research Centre was established in 1999 as a partnership between the Universities of Durham and Newcastle and the Centre for Life. PEALS aims to research, inform and improve policy, professional practice and public participation in the life sciences. We particularly promote research and debate on the social and ethical aspects of genetics and other life sciences.'

Text taken from the PEALS website


Part of my placement has been spent in the lab, looking specifically at gene expression in early human development. This is research led by Prof. Susan Lindsay and goes under the name of DGEMap

'Developmental Gene Expression Map. (DGEMap) DGEMap is an EU funded project which aims to define the organisational structures, ethical framework, and technologies for molecular genetics and informatics necessary for a proposed new infrastructure for research on gene expression in early human development. This particular field of research uses embryonic or foetal tissue recovered from legal elective termination of pregnancy or miscarriage. Clearly, cultural and social attitudes to research using such material vary significantly throughout members of the European Union . Thus, the ethical framework for using these tissues in a pan-European research facility needs to be carefully evaluated and assessed. PEALS is exploring the social, legal and ethical issues associated with science that uses such tissue, with the aim of providing a framework of considerations for an ethically robust research governance framework for the proposed new infrastructure. We have conducted a review of the social science and bioethics literature in this area, in addition to identifying the, often complex and contradictory, legislation and regulatory guidelines in place for working with human developmental tissue throughout the EU. We have also conducted a survey of some scientists in the field and identified a strong desire for the provision of ethics training to staff at all stages of their careers. We will follow this up with a number of interviews with senior scientists engaged in human developmental research, in order to elicit their views on the strengths of the existing systems of governance under which they operate, and the challenges they encounter. A symposium of invited scientists, lawyers, philosophers and social scientists was held in early 2007, where the issues identified in the literature review were discussed and other areas of concern and interest identified. Two topics were thought to deserve particular attention; consent for the donation of tissue to research and engagement with the wider public on the value of this research.'

Text taken from the PEALS website


Below are links relating to this research:

http://www.dgemap.org
http://www.hdbr.org
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ihg/EADHB



I have to say that, so far, this hasn't been the easiest placement. On entering the lab environment, I found myself coming up against quite a few unexpected challenges; much of these were simply to do with a misunderstanding of 'lab etiquette'.

I initially spent two days at PEALS immersing myself in the ethical issues - the needs and arguments for and against, the ways of talking about genetic research and attempting to get to grips with the super sensitivity needed when approaching work that involves the use of embryonic tissues.

After this short time, I entered the lab environment, spending time as an observer. Almost immediately it felt as though problems were arising - I felt that in some ways I was treated with a sense of suspicion, a little like an intruder and also, that little was understood of potentially how the role of artists within industry, etc could be beneficial. This was initially all a bit of a shock - I had been anticipating that these different practices could meet and inform one another - I felt (and still do) that it's possible to make artwork that can facilitate the raising of issues that are more often written about, collected as data or that become a headline in a tabloid, through the more accessible impact of the visual. These initial difficulties led me to feel that there was an air of defensiveness shrouding the lab and its practices.

I felt that it needed to be acknowledged or explained that the lab dealing with such sensitive work, is not the place to discuss ethical issues or to attempt to enter any personal discussions that working with such rare material evokes. It seems, very predictably and understandably, that it is a necessary to make an emotional and intellectual 'separation' here.

Many of my points here, are obvious in hindsight. Lots of 'stuff' has come out of this: for the lab - how to engage visitors, and for me, how to address and engage in 'separation'. Which oddly enough, appears to be becoming a mutually beneficial relationship.


Friday, 19 October 2007

dreams

If there were a theme for yesterday it would have been dreams...

I looked on a friends website and saw they had made a series of digital works, that were interpretations of artworks that he had encountered during his dreams. This reminded me of the works I had made inspired by my own vivid dreams - mainly to do with crawling down streets because the heels I'm wearing have grown so much I can no longer walk, or an endless bumpy journey in Victorian carriage with people who don't really have faces.

I remembered the passage from William Burroughs - My Education: a book of dreams - where he speaks about seeing through his mouth and eating through his eyes...How he is always hungry in his dreams - but never gets to eat - and how this indicates to him that he is dreaming and not in real life. Burroughs also says that it has been proven that dreams are as necessary as sleep itself, that dreaming is a biological function and that without dream sleep you would die within two months.

In the evening I watched The Science of Sleep by Gondry- which mainly seems to be about a boy who 'inverts' real life and dream life, and can't control either, he becomes increasingly frustrated as they entwine...

In my own dreams it is often the rooms that I visit that strike me more than anything else - the spaces my mind conjures up - significant of something...It seems to be these rooms that stay with me more than anything else - I have wanted to try to recreate them somehow - but it seems to be one of those projects where the vastness and the impossibility to get it right, put me off before I start. Although projection seems ideal, images in light, transparency.

Burroughs - '...artist's show people what they know and what they don't know they know' from the Commissioner of the Sewers.


Thursday, 18 October 2007

Eye Candy

My Education: a book of dreams. Burroughs

'Meet two naked angels about sixteen. They say it's their first solo flight. The city spread out underneath us about a thousand feet down, in beautiful pastel shades...all quite idyllic. I acquire some liquid nourishment in a silver trough. It is creamy and custardy and tastes delicious...I absorb some through a sort of osmosis.


The proprietor brings out a bar like a gold ingot, about eight inches long and brown on the outside. He cuts off one side and inside is a creamy filling...looks like creme brulee, clearly delicious and I am eating it with my eyes. It's known as Eye Candy...breathing it in through my eyes. (As a child of three I thought that one saw with one's mouth. My brother then told me to close my eyes and open my mouth and I got the idea I couldn't see with my mouth...but people do feast with their eyes)'

Collaboration With Manuel 2007

I thought I'd post these as I was thinking about documentation. Although these are not documentation, it's even a little too difficult to call them documentation of a collaboration - as works they are complete, finished... I was having some difficulty trying define exactly 'what' they are and had go back and look at something I wrote at the time they were taken:

'...By collaborating in a way that engages with my concerns but also brings a new artistic perspective, we have created something beyond the sum of its parts. These works are not documentation or portraiture – they are a hybrid of skills, concerns, resources, ideas and intuition.'

The images were taken at Belsay, during the fellowship - it felt to be an ideal site to re-investigate some practice/performance concerns, initially influenced through classicism and the histories of painting, the tradition of the female nude, but also symmetry, pattern and form - body and architecture. They have been published in Manuel's new book Encounters.









Wednesday, 17 October 2007

attempts at documenting




video


This is a little video I made at Dartington, in an attempt to document one-to-one. Its funny to see the work like this - from the outside, as such. Changes how I feel about the work - but I'm not sure what to yet.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

performance at dca




My end-of-year performance for the MA took place in two different locations, the first in Catherine House doctor's surgery in Totnes, and the second, on-site at Dartington College in a more 'traditional' black box space. Both pieces were one-to-ones. The work itself had been developed through previous works, my dissertation research and experiences of everyday one-to-one encounters.

The action performed in these works, directly related to the work I showed at the NRLA in 2007. The piece was called pulse, during which I introduced touch to my one-to-one 'tools' - I placed two fingers on the participants neck, feeling their pulse at the Carotid artery, for approximately ten minutes - whilst the participant held a hand mirror in which they could view either his/herself or me.

Reviews - http://interface.a-n.co.uk/reviews/single/369428
http://writingfromliveart.blogspot.com/2007/02/pulse-francesca-steele.html

The new performances were greatly influence by my dissertation: Power-shifts: a response to the dialogues in one-to-one performance through a comparison with the doctor-patient interaction. But also a recent doctor's appointment, where a young doctor took my blood; there was a point where we both sat in silence, staring at my arm - concentrating, a needle connecting my body to the doctor's, I could watch and could feel the blood leaving my body. When the moment was over - I immediately missed it.

The pictures above are of the room where I performed, but also where the doctor took my blood.

The new pieces involved the participant taking my pulse, in some of the engagements I washed their hands, in the piece on-site at Dartington College I also took the participants pulse at the same time as they felt mine. In both pieces I used a static mirror, which meant we could share eye contact - but not see our own faces.

Most participants came to both performances, which meant we had an extended relationship - rather than the usual 10 minutes. (I would like to try this over a longer period of time.)

I'm still mulling over and filtering the experiences. I really enjoyed the doctors surgery piece - the participants were required to turn up ten minutes before their time, notify reception and wait in the waiting room as if a patient. Then the receptionist would send them up to me. Waiting became a noted part of the experience.

In using two different spaces, it felt the work happened somewhere in between - the two performances opened a dialogue between each other. The main difference for me, was exactly how much the space effected the performances; in the doctors surgery, I was a little more nervous - the black space provided me with a familiar environment and a bit more confidence. Using the doctors surgery took the work away from my usual aesthetic and context for my tools - and re-located it in a different place both familiar and foreign, everyday and but also strange. I think this was the most exciting thing about the work.

power structures - one-to-one

Although power structures are present in maybe all one-to-one encounters that we experience in the everyday - it is the Live Art one-to-one encounter that allows an open examination of this relationship, specifically as subject of the work.

If one-to-one is successful it is maybe because of it's ability to use, and in turn expose power structures - uncovering the weaknesses and flaws of the power structure itself. This vulnerability revealed, opens up a gap in which the individual and subjective exploration of the relationship between performer-participant can occur.