Medical Museion’s new exhibition The Body Collected explores the collection and preservation of the human body for medical research. Specimens from the museum’s historical collections are on display alongside materials from contemporary biobanks, inviting us to see continuities and contrasts in the ways that medicine has gathered bodies in the present to advance future medical treatment.
The exhibition also features DNA and blood specimens from lead researcher and curator Karin Tybjerg and curator Malthe Boye Bjerregaard, and a PKU heel prick test from Karin’s baby. The collection and display of these ‘body parts’ didn’t fall under standard research ethics procedures – the curators were curating themselves, challenging institutional ideas of informed consent and anonymity.
For many bioartists, these are everyday dilemmas. Who can give you permission to work with biological materials when you aren’t employed by a research laboratory? How can you get access to the technical knowledge required? How can we judge (and who should judge) the value of artwork when weighing up ethical concerns against the value of the work produced?
Medical Museion is participating in the EU project Trust Me, I’m an Artist, which explores these questions by inviting artists to present artworks, proposals, or performances to a public audience and local ethics panel, and accompanying workshops. The project builds on an original series of events led by Anna Dumitriu.
Medical Museion is delighted to be working with artist Gina Czarnecki and collaborator and scientist Rod Dillon to develop a proposal for an artwork that engages with The Body Collected – who gets to access the kinds of material on display in the exhibition? Who judges the ethics of using these materials, and the value of the outcomes? By inviting Gina and Rod to work with the exhibition we also augment the question of how artist and scientist can work together by adding a third party – the museum curator – and will reflect on how this shapes the questions at stake.