conference & exhibition
Richard Wingate- Alien Anatomies
We have been using alien anatomy as an interdisciplinary teaching tool in a number of different contexts; sometimes working with artists to explore the full possibilities of an imaginary world and other times shifting perspective only slightly to give freedom for imagination in the biology classroom. At each point we have consciously referenced an underlying belief that it is only by exploring the alien that we can fully understand the non-alien. How anatomy reacts to and incorporates the alien reveals the body's biological and evolutionary capabilities but also allows us to contemplate how our own bodies are conceptualised. The creation of an alien being, whether in the classroom, in print or on screen, goes far beyond questions of body form and movement, to notions of mentality, consciousness and the cultural status of the body.
10:30 - 11:00
Francis Wells:-"Anatomy for the surgeon: Then, Now and into the future"
Anatomy is, above all else, the road map for the surgeon. Performing surgery in the absence of detailed anatomical knowledge is akin to setting off on a long road trip into unknown spaces without a map. The current exploration of the Red planet are based on prior geographical and geological knowledge.
Many of the great anatomists of the past were first and foremost surgeons navigating the human body with personally acquired knowledge. The recent undermining of anatomical teaching in medical school has caused surgical trainees to be moved into a role of proceduralists rather than a fully rounded surgeon. Thankfully this trend is seeing a reversal.
Modern technology is producing exciting possibilities in the teaching and understanding of the anatomy of the body including the incorporation of an appreciation of the functional aspects. Could the transfer of this knowledge through advanced scanning techniques allied to robotic development lead to the redundancy of the human element? Time will tell but with remote surgery already possible this cannot be ruled out."
11:30 - 12:00
Joe Davis - EXISTENTIAL ANATOMY
We are living in an era when expert judgement is being routinely called into question—whether it is climate change, vaccines, or the fact that the Earth is a sphere.
Yet nothing is absolutely infallible—not professional pilots, not advanced military cameras, not government reports, not even science and mathematics, and so, human beings see things they can’t explain, like flying saucers. We tend to overlay such mysteries with attributes of personal cosmologies that can reinforce notions about supernatural agencies at work in the world. These are seen as underlying truths that can be stretched to cover every inexplicable event, every unforeseen calamity or disaster, and any other disagreeable or uncomfortable aspect of nature. Belief in benevolent alien visitors reflects the tendency for people to have faith in other kinds of spiritual protectors, like guardian angels. I have already helped to create uncounted numbers of these, and on the way, drawn together some of the plausible and implausible aspects of our human experience.
With a modest demonstration of the operations of human physiology in time and space, I will show how the vision we have of ourselves and the world around us is an illusion; that we subsist only as historical artifacts of actions and events that happen somewhere else in space and time. And, as I’m sure you know, history is always subject to adjustment.
13:00 - 13:30
Angelo Vermeulen. Regenerative synthetic ecosystems and evolving asteroid starships: a cybernetic reframing of the politics, poetics and ethics of space colonization
inevitably, there will be a time when humankind transitions from the stage of space exploration to actual space colonization. With colonists living semi-independently from Earth comes the need for self-sustainability. Biology will play a key role here, through the establishment of regenerative life support and agricultural food production systems. In this presentation, two space research projects will be presented that explicitly take the analogy between biology and machines as their departure point. An analysis of both projects’ intrinsic politics and the poetics emanating from their idiosyncratic perspectives leads us to shared ethical values. The first project, the MELiSSA research programme of the European Space Agency, focuses on the development of an artificial ecosystem in which human waste is broken down into nutrients for plants by a series of bioreactors. The plants consequently provide the necessary food and oxygen for the crew. The project employs a perspective in which the ecosystem is entirely atomized: life is conceived to be an ongoing exchange of molecules, and the ecosystem a superbody in which all actors sooner or later share the same atoms. This endless exchange and the consequential web-like interdependencies are at the heart of the system’s politics. E|A|S (Evolving Asteroid Starships) is a transdisciplinary advanced concept research programme at Delft University of Technology. The bio-inspired concept of an evolvable spacecraft is being explored based on a combination of requirements research, computer modeling, and visual research. This spacecraft is conceived to be an open and responsive life-like entity that is in constant dialogue with its internal and external environment. It achieves this through a combination of asteroid mining and space-based 3D manufacturing. In essence, the spacecraft operationalizes a willingness to change. The machine is conceived here as an endless flow, constantly working against entropy-driven decay. As such it can be considered to be an ‘anti-ruin’. The above analysis finally leads to two shared lines of ethics: obsolete obsolescence and responsibility for the Other. In this presentation, these ethics will be further elucidated, and their relevance to life on Earth discussed.
Andrew Burd: Intelligent Facial Prostheses"
Andrew Burd is a Scottish medic. He has dedicated his professional life to metamorphosis; taking a delicate young spirit, trapped in a carapace of scar and through art and anatomy, through the medium of surgery, giving children the freedom to fly. As the eyes dim, the insights grow brighter. Years of laboratory research, academic studies, teaching, training, and helping so many patients; I am moving on. I am fascinated by the interface between man and machine. Not just the physical but what about other forms of control/interaction? Bluetooth? Wifi? Upper limb amputation, which would you prefer? Transplantation or prosthesis? Not a simple question but there is a simple answer: bionic prosthesis. 100%. No question. Okay, follow-up question. Major traumatic damage or loss to all or part of the face; transplant or mask? Mask? What sort of mask? A bionic mask: an intimate union between materials and biology powered and controlled by a bio-sensory interface. Transplantation is working against nature. The revolution which we are proposing is to work with nature, to combine, to integrate. It works well with smartphones! Great with upper limb smart prostheses. What about bionic facial prostheses? Start small, think big, So here I am, facing the future and looking at future faces."
15:00 - 15:30
Nina Sellars: Anatomy Museums of a Critical Posthumanist
In an era when virtual anatomies circulate on the internet and bioengineered human organs are being printed from volumetric images, it can appear that the various new modes in which we engage with anatomical images of the body are effectively redefining what it means to be human. A way of seeing becomes a way of being, whereby images no longer depict reality but can be thought of as actively determining the flesh of our reality. The images also seem to reveal a desire to design the human anew. Yet, irrespective of the technological sophistication experienced in our engagement with contemporary anatomical images, there appears to be a certain recycling of what is essentially a 16th-century vision. With the fundamental propositions of humanism that serve as the foundation of anatomy remaining relatively intact since the Renaissance. This paper poses the question – do we need to overturn the project of humanism to rethink anatomy? And, if so, what approach would we need to take to re-imagine the discipline? Beginning with a cartography of humanist anatomy, this paper considers ways in which to create thoughtful interventions into the historical narratives of anatomy and its visual archives, i.e. its museum collections and compendia. Suggesting that the aim here is not to abandon humanism, but rather to challenge it from within.
14:30 - 15:00
Eleanor Crook: The Past of the Future
Speculations about the future of the human body and its future environment both on and beyond our planet have an intriguing history stretching way back before the Enlightenment. A survey of the imaginative, prescient and mistaken projections of past generations of scientific prediction puts in perspective our current ability to anticipate what is to come, giving grounds for caution and optimism. Our bodies may be limited by time and biology but our ability to adapt and to send our imagination forward to meet challenges “avant la garde” are essential to our evolution. Literary sources from the ancient world, through the Renaissance and up to more recent times provide evidence of the limits and capacities of our providence; some past writers of science fiction seem to describe the world we seem to inhabit now, while others can only see the world to come as a version of their own time. This talk places the time machine inside the human mind and ponders: how was the future , in the past?
Andrew Carnie: The edge of Anatomy
From 2017 to 2020 I followed the work of the research team CANDO, Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics using Optogenetics at Newcastle University. My intent was to make artworks to illuminate science. The science groups, the investigation involved the use of gene therapy and brain implantation of a mechanical device to control focal epilepsy. The approach and the findings could be applicable to a range of other neurological disorders, where neurons are malfunctioning. These methodologies change human anatomy beyond what we know currently.
A year into my early research period was the surprising discovery that designed into the therapy process was the removal at one year of the brain implanted device, the optrode. This removal would happen even if the process were successful. Why? The integration of biological beings with non-biological parts, sensors, and devices raises conceptual challenges and legal, ethical, questions. What does it mean to be a hybrid? Does such an intervention cause disruption to our sense of embodiment? Such science work transgresses the boundary between persons and things, and between subject and object. What is the legal framework for such work? Who owns the implanted device? Where does the law of property stand on such matters? Who assumes liability?
All this intrigued me, but how does one make artwork about such topics? As artists should we be working in this realm at all, in this reality, is it possible? The art space is the place where we continue without restraint to dream of the future? But is this an ‘edge’ too far.
How did these ideas play out in the works made for the final exhibition, Illuminating the Self, shown in Newcastle, in 2020 at the Hatton and Vane galleries simultaneously?
16:00 - 16:30
Mara G. Haseltine :
The Age of the Anthroprocene: Exploring the Link between our Biological and Cultural Evolution
We are at a unique time in the history of our planet when for perhaps the first time a sentient being is aware of the possibility that they are responsible for a mass extinction event, in fact this will be the planets 6th mass extinction event. I believe it is the job to an artist to reflect their times and this epic story of the life and death of the biosphere as we know it is something that has come to consume all of my work. In this talk I will investigate the link between our cultural and biological evolution and the role of art as a tool to create the necessary the cultural shift towards a shared bio-ethic in which humans create symbiotic relationship to the environment and our shared biosphere based in the holistic concept of " Geotherapy ".
17:00 - 17:45
Alexander Lukas Bieri Andreas Vesal’s Lasting Impact on the Art of the Danse Macabre
Alexander Lukas Bieri has been the curator of The Roche Historical Collection and Archive for twenty years. He is responsible for the in-house museums, collections and archives which include major assets on the history of pharmacy, medicine and art (and an anatomical collection). His publications include works on art and architectural history as well as on the history of science and business. He is currently chairman of the International Council on Archives’ Section on Business Archives and of the German Business Archivists Association’s Section on Archives of the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industry. Alex is also a member of ICOMOS Switzerland and in this capacity a specialist for 20th century interior design. Based on a rare find in one of Roche’s collections, he developed an interest in the danse macabre a long time ago. He found out that the art form of the danse macabre offers a fascinating insight into the artistic development of the depiction of humans. It also allows to highlight the transformative power Andreas Vesalius’ “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” had on art in its time and beyond. Furthermore, the history of the danse macabre makes changing societal attitudes towards death understandable.
Theo Dirix "How would Sophocles's Antigone bury and rebury her brother tomorrow?"
In Antigone, the Greek tragedy, it is decreed, on penalty of death, that of two rivalling brothers who perished both in a war, the hero shall be buried in a tomb and the body of the other left exposed, a “gross spectacle of shame”. Their sister, Antigone defies the law and covers her brother with a layer of dust. When performing a full burial ritual, she is caught. She hangs herself before she can be executed.
Beyond themes like civil disobedience and family, Sophocles explores values like the moral duty of ritualistic burial. Since 441 BCE, when the tragedy was written, these values have been challenged continuously. Contemporary and future methods of disposing of our dead, not only during growing crises, endanger them more than ever ..
18:00 - 18:15
William Edwards "Dealing with the Dead - Sentiment versus Modernity"
"Dealing with the Dead - Sentiment versus Modernity" The after death choices for the deceased have traditionally been fairly limited, but as the 21st century progresses many new options are emerging. Some of the new possibilities are logical extensions of traditional methods but some are more challenging developments as technology and societal norms evolve.
18:15 - 18:30
Mark Roughley "Should humans from the past exist as digital humans in the future?
Current 3D and 4D technologies are enabling the production of computer-generated characters for games and movies, which are overcoming the uncanny valley effect to create realistic digital humans that can move and speak with you. Digital toolkits from these industries are being adopted by facial reconstruction specialists in order to depict historic people from their skeletal remains, and for the public to interact with a person from the past. Opportunities exist for these digital humans to ‘live’ in current times and potentially forever; or as long as their computer files exist, but this poses a number of ethical questions. In this presentation, we will look to debate whether humans from the past should exist as digital humans in the future?
18:45 - 18:55
Bryan Green Performance Beyond Anatomy