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



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


Inspired: The antiquity of speech

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 Rock Webb.

The first caption as you enter the gallery for ‘THIS IS A VOICE‘ exhibition states “voice is the original instrument”. Further, that original human voice, or song, has its origins in the need for humans to socially attach as changes took place within human evolution. Hominins essentially developed a new method of bonding to replace the increasingly inefficient and time-consuming physical grooming; vocal grooming if you like. Speech as we know it is exclusively human. It is behaviourally advanced and unprecedented, involving extraordinary use of our lips, tongue, larynx and as well as our brain. Continue reading


How we created the soundtrack for the THIS IS A VOICE trailer

Producing trailers for Wellcome Collection often involves hunting around for that perfect music track to cut to. Some are thoughtful; some are more downbeat. All are essential for conveying the mood of the show. Our Multimedia Producer Chris Chapman speaks to artist David Toop about creating a distinctive soundtrack for one of our current exhibitions.

THIS IS A VOICE‘ was always going to be different. I knew the soundtrack needed to be something very human, but also quite unusual. Our music library certainly wasn’t the place to look.

After chatting to exhibition curator, Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz, I discovered that David Toop was due to host one of the Voicings events during the exhibition. He had been one of the original members of The Flying Lizards, an experimental 1980s art-rock group, with hits such as ‘Money’ and ‘TV’.

As well as an established author and the Chair of Audio Culture at London College of Communication, David continues to produce and perform experimental music, much of it based on vocalisations. After an introduction over a cup of tea, David was on board. Continue reading

"Everyday Objects Belonging to a Voice Hearer / Everyday Objects Belonging to a Non Voice Hearer", 2016, on display in 'THIS IS A VOICE'.

Hearing Voices: On Curiosity

Seven young voice hearers, aged 14-19, collaborated with artist Hannah Hull to create a significant body of artwork that comments on a key theme in our current exhibition ‘THIS IS A VOICE’. This artwork aims to evoke and challenge the viewer’s expectations of a voice hearer. Hannah tells us more about it and considers the ethics of such an artwork.

The experience of working with seven young women who hear voices has been incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a more creative, smart and sensitive group to co-produce artwork with for the current Wellcome Collection exhibition. They challenged me and my practice to the fullest, and it has been one of the most rewarding art projects I have undertaken to date.

There is so much I want to communicate about this body of work, but I’m going to talk about the one thing that is conspicuously absent from our main artwork: details about the experience of hearing voices. Continue reading


Depressed in Dharavi

Our new book In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room by Aarathi Prasad was inspired by Wellcome Collection’s 2016 Mumbai exhibition and broader programme of events exploring India’s rich plurality of cultures of medicine, healing and well-being. Using her own pictures from her travels, here’s a taste of Aarathi’s story of the Indian people, in sickness and in health, providing a unique perspective on one of the most diverse and fascinating country in the world.

On 60-feet Road, the main road into the Dharavi mega-slum, medical practitioners of various backgrounds offer a variety of services. This might include conventional medicine, but may also include Unani medicine, which can include the practice of bone-setting.

Houses in Dharavi consist of a downstairs room less than three metres squared which is used as a kitchen and sleeping area. If a family can afford it they will build an upstairs, accessed by a very steep metal ladder fixed to the outside of the property: a frequent cause of strains, sprains and breakages. As space is so tight in Dharavi, the upper floor can sometimes be used to generate a rental income. Continue reading


Inspired: Human evolution & obstetrics

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 Rock Webb.

As an archaeologist I am particularly interested in the notion of becoming and being human. The study of human evolution fascinates me, as well as how hominid development has had a profound effect on our modern biological makeup. Take obstetrical adaptation for example. The display of a whole array of forceps in our Medicine Man gallery reminds us how giving birth has become so medicalised. I would like to offer one view on this topic. Continue reading