The first event, ‘Making Balanced Bodies: From Leeches to Pills’, will be on Thursday 22nd March at 19.30, when you can meet doctors from the past and present and encounter the tools of their trade. And we have more exciting encounters with the stuff of medicine coming up in April and May, including a hands-on art workshop exploring the everyday aesthetics of medical devices, and a rollercoaster ride through the process of turning samples of saliva and blood into genetic data.
What are we trying to do?
Like most research groups that study science (though perhaps not like most science museums), we don’t think of research as involving disinterested scientists following a clearly prescribed method to arrive at true facts, independent of context. Rather, we think of science ‘as culture’ in many different ways – as constantly in dialogue with other ways of understanding the world, from philosophy to alternative medicine; as having particular social, material, and aesthetic cultures of its own; as influencing (and influenced by) media cultures and political discourse, and so on. This perspective presents new challenges for science communication, which has traditionally been defined in terms of the problem of accurately translating technical terms for a monolithic public audience. How can we communicate medical science as culture, and engage people in discussion about the implications for understandings our bodies and health practices? How can we bring to life science-in-the-making; from the complexities of the laboratory to the experience of research participation? How can we talk about social and cultural contexts of medical research without seeming to undervalue its importance in understanding health?
In this event series we are trying one route: a focus on things… The intriguing objects of medicine that attract, confuse, frighten, bore, or repel us – from those we can viscerally imagine in relation to our own bodies, like needles or knives, to ‘black-box’ laboratory equipment that can seem opaque and cold. This focus builds on the fantastic collections at Medical Museion, and on previous events and exhibitions that have focused on their material qualities. It also draws on the research we do behind the scenes – on topics such as the materiality, phenomenology, and aesthetics of metabolic science, the role of health monitoring devices in patient identity, and the representation of the social contexts of science in the media. We’d love to hear from readers of the blog if you have experience with putting together, or attending, similar events.
Below are five goals we’re using as a roadmap, which we’ll be returning to to evaluate the events as we go along – watching out for poor map-reading, and considering when we might need to revise the map itself:
• Open up the glass cases of the museum and laboratory, and let the objects out…
• Bring the weird past, the opaque present, and ambivalent future of medicine together.
• Explore medical science as part of our culture, sensation, and everyday speech.
• Unwrap medical science in the making – finding not finished facts but evolving knowledge.
• Matchmake curators, researchers, publics, scientists, artists, doctors, and patients.