PhD candidates from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences collaborated with postgraduate students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) to create ART x SCIENCE, an exhibition connecting audiences with cutting-edge biomedical engineering research in the Science Museum, as part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival on 9-10 October.
The exhibits were developed by students Julie Sigurdardottir and Marica Muffoletto, as well as five artists from the RCA.
Julie collaborated with Stiliyana Minkovska, Sarah Schrimpf and Wushang Tong on In Utero, an immersive, multi-sensory sculpture modelled on the womb. Inspired by conversations with parents from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Maternity Voices Partnership and medical imagery, the installation invited audiences to explore how maternal physical and mental health impact the development of babies’ brains during pregnancy.
Julie said: “With the effect of the pandemic and disruptions to services dedicated to women in a vulnerable time in their life, we wanted to bring to the forth the notion that everyone in society ought to be aware of some difficulties they face and how we benefit from being allies to future and current parents.”
Stiliyana added: “My practice as an architect and designer is dedicated to the human arc of reproduction, which inspired me to take part in ART x SCIENCE. I loved working with Julie on our exhibit and learn from her insights as a scientist.”
Marica worked with artists Sophie Richter and Elizabeth Folashade to explore research into how trauma can have an impact on the structure and function of the heart. Their exhibit, Hidden Stories of the Heart, translates experiences of extreme stress into abstract models and sounds of the heart.
Marica said: “Working with Elizabeth and Sophie was a great experience; they had plenty of creative ideas and were both a great source of inspiration. The concept of our exhibit came from a conversation with Elizabeth, who is a trained counsellor with a long-lasting history of dealing with subjects affected by trauma and pain. We realised we both shared a strong interest in unveiling the stories of these people and relating them to science.”
Elizabeth added: “Over the years, my findings about the hidden properties of papier-mâché as a major material in my art practice and its metaphorical representation of women’s resilience have been rich and inspiring. We used this technique to create Hidden Stories of The Heart, which served as a timely intervention to raise awareness of the effect of trauma on the heart health of women.”
Over two days, the event attracted over 2,000 visitors. The creative approach enabled attendees to connect with the research and stimulated endless conversations between the public and the exhibitors. Sophie Richter said: “It has been a wonderful experience to see visitors interact with the exhibition. There has been a huge interest around the stories and topic of trauma and women, which made us realise how little we openly hold discussions and that we need to bring such stories more often to the forefront to inspire change.”
ART x SCIENCE has been an incredible journey of collaboration, consultation and creativity. It has been fantastic to see artists, scientists, and community groups share their expertise and experiences to create two artworks that shine a light on the human experience of healthcare and provide a voice for women who are rarely given a platform to share their stories.– Bella Spencer, Public Engagement Officer at the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Smart Medical Imaging and the project’s co-organiser