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The art of medicine

Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future as a way to understand what it means to be human. In this post, Muriel Bailly explores the connections between medicine and art, discussing how their relationship can lead to a richer understanding of both.

“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved,
there is also a love of Humanity.”
– Hippocrates

All too often, we hear that medicine is the stuff of science while art belongs to the humanities; that the two are different, if not opposite. Only a few months ago, the then-Secretary of Education Nicky Morgan encouraged young students to focus on science, as art subjects lead to unemployment. But would scientists and artists themselves agree with this common distinction between their disciplines? Continue reading

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The multiple lives of States of Mind

On until 16 October, ‘States of Mind‘ explores our understanding of the conscious experience from different perspectives. The book supporting the exhibition is a collection of literature, science and art delving into the mysteries of human consciousness. The book’s editor Anna Faherty reflects on the brief and varied lives one’s creations may lead upon being released it to the world. 

Museums and galleries are curious places to work, for many reasons. One is that they provide an opportunity to observe how the target audience for something you helped create behave and what they say in the exhibition space. Surreptitious spying, or eavesdropping, on museum visitors has practical value in terms of gathering information and insight that may help improve future exhibitions, but it can also be a deeply personal experience.

It’s hard not to be emotionally affected when you observe strangers interacting with, enjoying, being confused or affronted by something you developed. Seeing that thing take on a new life, often in unexpected ways, as the experiences of visitors shape their own interaction with the exhibition, and the interactions of others, can be even more affecting. Continue reading

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Contemplating the Contemporary: Text and Language based art

Contemporary art is all around us, but we often still ask: “Is it art?” In this blog series exploring how and why we make art, Guillaume Vandame looks at art in our Medicine Now gallery and beyond for Contemplating the Contemporary.

Contemporary art is dominated by issues of communication and narrative. With the rise of globalisation, advances in technology such as the Internet and advent of social media, and a wider range of diverse voices emerging, these issues related to text and language have become increasingly more complicated.

Throughout modern art history, the use of text and language based art has resulted in varied responses by artists. Following the aftermath of World War I, European artists such as Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Hoch translated feelings of disillusionment and confusion through multi-layered collages and assemblage, sourcing found newspapers and literature as material. Continue reading

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London Drawing in the Reading Room

Earlier this year, art collective London Drawing took over an area of our Reading Room to engage visitors and inspire them to get creative. The stand out activity was their Renaissance Selfies, relating to the theme of ‘face’. The co-director of the collective, Anne Noble-Partridge, tells us more about this fun, simple and effective photo opportunity.

As an artist I have always been interested in the way the frame of a photograph can remove an image from its true surroundings; the way you can play with reality through the ‘reality’ of the camera lens is fascinating.

It all started while I was on holiday in Italy, having overdosed on Italian Renaissance paintings. I whiled away a wet evening messing about taking self portrait photographs in the Renaissance style using what I had around me: an embroidered bedspread, sun visor and pillowcase. I really enjoyed the process and got quite engrossed in it. Continue reading

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Would like to meet: Rob

This blog series gives you a chance to find out a little more about the people behind the desk at Wellcome Collection, the team of artists, academics, musicians, researchers, comedians and more. Among many other things, they invigilate galleries; write and provide tours and “busking” sessions; they work on exhibitions, events and special projects; and they offer information and guidance to our visitors every day. It’s all in a day’s work for our VEAs, so come and meet the team.

Nelly Ekström introduces Rob Bidder, one of our Visitor Experience Assistant (VEA) team members bringing the galleries and exhibitions to life. 

It’s time for Rob to take the stage. Rob is one of the most experienced members of the team: he’s been at Wellcome Collection about four and a half years. He calls himself a Jack of all trades and master of none; those fortunate enough to work with him know that he is in fact the master of a great many things. Continue reading

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Inspired: Alchemists and housewives around a long table

Sometimes provocative and always interesting, this series of shorter stories can be inspired by pretty much anything in Wellcome Collection and offers a quick insight into some of the themes we explore. This one comes from Elissavet Ntoulia.

Working in a museum that explores the human condition, you develop the skill of spotting connections between elements that at first glance seem to randomly coexist. Sometimes inspiration comes from as trivial a thing as the choice of furniture: a long table in our Reading Room, for example, situated at the centre of a section exploring the themes of Alchemy and Food. Other sections explore only a single theme, like Body or Pain. So why have Alchemy and Food been paired together?

Possible answers are connected to human curiosity for experimentation and the quest to understand the body’s relationship with nature and the wider universe. Continue reading

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Voicings

We invited artists to programme or perform live vocalisations in the ‘THIS IS A VOICE‘ gallery space over the show’s run (exhibition closes 31 July). These daily events offered an intimate, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the mechanics of voice production and vocal exercises. Elissavet Ntoulia reflects on this unorthodox programme of events. 

59 live performances over 10 weeks by 9 artists inside ‘THIS IS A VOICE‘ exhibition: Voicings can officially go down in Wellcome Collection’s exhibition history as the first programme of daily live performances.

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Meredith Monk’s Ascension Variations (2009) in New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

Although performance in museums is not new, the recent opening of the new Tate Modern has shown yet again how performance has been gaining ground recently in big institutions. It can vary from large scale, all-building occupations like Meredith Monk’s (whose work also features in ‘THIS IS A VOICE’) Ascension Variations (2009) in New York’s Guggenheim, to in-gallery performances like that of the work of choreographer Merce Cunningham in Barbican’s ‘The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns’ exhibition (2013). Performance art of any kind and scale has also been seen by institutions as adding value towards their effort for creating unique visitor experiences and offering increased opportunities for interaction and participation. Continue reading