At the conference “Contemporary medical science and technology as a challenge to museums” in Copenhagen last month, one of the very hot topics was art. What contributions can art make to exhibitions of contemporary medicine?


The first speaker of this session, Yin Chung Au from Taipei, pointed out that we should move away from displaying the frozen end product of medical science, and show objects in use instead. Visitors don’t get their experiences from being awed by the wondrous possibilities of contemporary science, but from personal experiences with the objects. MedArt can help us display the processes of medical science and allow people to engage with it. At the same time it can blur the boundaries of traditional medical ways of thinking, and expose scientific discourse as normative. When confronted with a MedArt wheelchair that helps you create your own melody when moving about in it, you are forced to ask yourself is being in wheelchair is really being disabled. Read Yin Chung Au’s abstract here.

Afterwards, Nina Czegledy addressed the challenge of exhibiting BioArt in medical museums. It requires high technology and maintenance, but on the other hand it provides us with an alternative way of looking at the mediated body of contemporary biomedicine. She made a point of the interesting aspects of contextualizing this contemporary anatomical art with anatomical illustrations from historical artists. Read Nina Czedgledy’s abstract here.

Lucy Lyons presented the idea that by using the ‘primitive’ technique of drawing, we can give visitors a chance to get close to the museum objects and appropriate them. When you give yourself time to really look at an object, you begin to see it. Lucy calls this “looking through a pencil”. In her experience, this gives you a much wider and more personal experience of the materiality, the history, and even the use of, an object than you would get from reading exhibition texts. It was an inspiring talk about experiencing other peoples’ experiences of object through drawing, and about the importance of giving visitors a material understanding of objects. Read Lucy Lyons’ abstract here.

The following discussion included comments from Danny Birchall, Jim Garretts, Adam Bencard, Nurin Veis and Kim Sawchuk.

For a list of all conference abstracts, see here. Read more about this video clip project here.

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