Caught on camera

Forensics: The anatomy of crime opens at Wellcome Collection next month. To whet your appetite for this exploration of the history, science and art of forensic medicine, Holly Story introduces us to an early technique for identifying criminals. Read it carefully to win the chance to have your face featured in a new game, Criminel, inspired by the exhibition. See below for details.

Forensics: The anatomy of crime
Forensics: The anatomy of crime, at Wellcome Collection 26 February until 21 June.

In an age when 360 degree surveillance is an unremarkable reality of our day to day lives, it is hard to imagine a time when to make a record of someone’s face you needed an artistic hand or a vivid imagination. But before the advent of photography, the faces of ordinary citizens were not often preserved on paper. Although there were skilful portrait artists, portraits were costly, the prerogative of the wealthy and the ruling classes and accuracy was not always the artist’s top priority. If you had not seen a person with your own eyes, then you had to rely on someone else’s unreliable reports of their appearance, their distinctive features or remarkable complexion to tell you what they looked like.

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Mitochondria

Chromosomes carry the genetic code that determines the characteristics of a living thing. They are fascinating due to the varied factors they determine, the sometimes negative effects they can have and their complexity. Equally interesting are the stories of their discoveries. This series will explore the history of specific chromosomes and their impact on science.

In humans, mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is regarded as the smallest chromosome, coding for 37 genes and containing approximately 16,600 base pairs. Taryn Cain continues this series by looking at mitochondria.

Let me take you back a bit. 1.4 million years back, in fact. A small bacterium was ingested by a large single-celled organism and, rather than being digested, the smaller body was instead left to its own devices. As time went on, the bacterium began transferring some of its genetic material over to the larger cell, until eventually it was as if the two had never been independent. The small bacterium involved itself with the inner workings of the cell, while the larger organism took over the world. That small bacterium was a mitochondrion, while the larger body became all multi-cellular life on earth. This evolutionary theory is known as symbiogenesis.

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Cruising for art

We’re halfway through the run of an in-gallery event series as part of the Institute of Sexology exhibition. Brian Lobel is the curator of Cruising for Art and explains how the rules and etiquette of cruising inspired this event format and how your eye contact, smile or wink may start a wild journey, tender moment or intimate conversation.

For two weeks at the Institute of Sexology, Cruising for Art brings unpredictability and live interaction to the already adventurous and bold exhibition. Each day, three different artists are spread throughout the gallery: some under tables; others inside Orgone Collecting Boxes; some just looking at exhibition pieces. Audience members grab a bandana to wear and so become cruisers, encouraged to make eye contact and connect with a stranger.  They cruise around the gallery hoping to make eye contact with a performer: while some performers are extravagantly dressed, others are dressed normally, encouraging people to make eye contact with everyone…who knows what can happen?

Blurring the boundaries between performer and audience has always been one of the most thrilling aspects of Cruising for Art which has previously featured in the V&A and Latitude Festival, among others. It opens up possibilities for unexpected conversations and tentative approaches between non-perfomers which genuinely mimic the motion of people looking to connect romantically, sexually or intimately. If an audience member and Cruising artist connect, the Cruising artist brings the audience member to a private space for a one to one performance.

Everything About You (Season Butler), photo by Christa Holka.
Everything About You (Season Butler), photo by Christa Holka.

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An A to Z of fear

In our Idiosyncratic A to Z of the Human Condition exhibition we invited you to contribute to the gallery in different ways, from submitting Instagram photos to marking your height on the wall. For the letter “F” we asked you to leave your fears with us. Russell Dornan presents the most common ones along with a selection of the most interesting.

Our current exhibition, The Institute of Sexology, may have recently opened but the exhibition that occupied its space immediately before it was a highly participative exploration of what it means to be human.

In it, the alphabet ran along both of the longest sides of the gallery, each letter opposite itself; every letter stood for a theme relating to the human condition. On one side, we presented a selection of historical objects associated with each letter’s theme; on the other side the same themes were explored using participatory activities in the gallery so our visitors could engage with those themes directly, simultaneously contributing to the exhibition itself.

"Three Monsters" and a scare devil on display under F is for Fears in the A to Z exhibition.
“Three Monsters” and a scare-devil on display under F is for Fears in the A to Z exhibition.

“F” stood for fear. Oxford dictionary defines it as follows:

“An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.”

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The Y Chromosome

Chromosomes carry the genetic code that determines the characteristics of a living thing. They are fascinating due to the varied factors they determine, the sometimes negative effects they can have and their complexity. Equally interesting are the stories of their discoveries. This series will explore the history of specific chromosomes and their impact on science.

Humans typically have 23 pairs of chromosomes. One of these is comprised of our sex-determining chromosomes, X and Y. Taryn Cain continues this series by looking at the Y chromosome.

The first mammals were tiny, shrew-like creatures that were still many millions of years away from being awoken by the melodic sound of an iPhone alarm or travelling to work in a huge piece of metal crammed with other mammals. While they carried on with their “simple” lives of eating and evading being eaten themselves, their DNA was also a fairly simple arrangement. All their chromosomes were autosomes and male/female differentiation was managed by genes on various autosomes rather than specific sex chromosomes.

Then a mutation occurred.

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