Adam Bencard – researcher and curator

I am Associate Professor in medical humanities at Medical Museion and affiliated with The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research . My work is split evenly between practical science communication (mainly curating exhibitions and teaching) and research. I have been employed at the Medical Museion in various positions since 2001, and did my Ph.D. here. My academic background is in philosophy and history.

Research agenda

My research revolves around materialism and materiality. I trace the complex meanings and effects of material thinking in three different contexts: post-genomic metabolism research, philosophy, and science communication. And I attempt to develop these ideas in experimental practice within the museum.

I am interested in what I call “molecular being.” This concept revolves around the idea that we, as human beings, are fundamentally a part of an expansive, material network, stretching inside and outside of our bodies. Post-genomic researchers are no longer satisfied with reducing the organism to the informational logic of a coding system embedded in biological software. The understanding of ‘life itself’ is shifting towards ideas of a multidimensional material body, made up of a complex system of proteins, where molecular structures, movements and interactions carry out the regulated work of the cell. These new developments have important consequences for how we understand biological organisms, and by extension what it means to be human. I am currently particularly interested in microbiome research, which provides a key point of intervention in this relational biology. Studies of the microbiome have profound consequences on how life is understood, and ultimately how treatment and managing of the human body will take place.

I use this post-genomic, microbial and material conception of life to develop and rethink practices in science communication, museum practice and philosophy – in essence, I try to work out what it means to think materially in across a range of disciplinary and practical boundaries.

Selected curatorial experience:

Mind the Gut (see here)

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Hello Bacteria! (see here)







Balance and Metabolism – two understandings of the body in medicine (see here and here)

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The Chemistry of Life – four chapters from the history of metabolic research (read more here and here)

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Recent conference papers:

Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (European branch), 3-6 June 2014, Turin.

– Paper title: Bacteria, slime and junk – new visions of an uncontrollable nature

Im/materiality seminar at Sorø Kunstmuseum, 5 April 2014, Sorø.

– Paper title: You are not alone – on bacteria and consciousness

Science in Public, 21-23 July, Nottingham.

– Paper title “Not a museum with things, but a museum about thingness – possible arguments for deepening material encounters in a museum context”

Public Communication of Science and Technology annual conference, 18.-20. April 2012, Florence
– Paper title: Reworking aesthetics in science communication

Danish Association of Science and Technology Studies annual conference, 30.-31. May 2012, Copenhagen.
– Paper title: Reconfiguring aesthetics and materializing science communication

Science in Public annual conference, 20.-21. July 2012, London
– Paper title: Materializing science communication – object-oriented philosophy and the embedded reality

Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, 27.-30. September 2012, Milwaukee.
– Paper title: Post-genomic metaphors for molecular being – from informational coding to a materially embedded interactome

Society for Social Studies of Science annual meeting, 17.-20. October 2012, Copenhagen.
– Paper title: Molecular being – post-genomic life between genes and proteins

Science in Public annual conference, 21.-22. July 2013, Nottingham.
– Paper title: Not a museum with things, but a museum about thingness – thoughts on exhibiting a microbial subject

Selected publications:

Bencard, A. (forthcoming 2017). Exhibitions as philosophical carpentry – on object-oriented exhibition making,

in Bjerregaard, P. (ed.) Exhibitions as Research: experimental methods in museums, Berg.

Bencard, A. (forthcoming 2016). Alle mulige vilde ting: nedslag i ny materialitetsfilosofi, Passepartout, Århus Universitet.

Bencard, A (forthcoming 2016) Paracelsus – en læge foran og udenfor sin tid, Sår, 24 (1).

Bencard, A. 2015. Det er bakteriernes planet, vi andre bor her bare, Kulturo, 40, 17-26.

Bencard, A. 2015. ‘På dette princip har jeg baseret en praksis’ – Joseph Lister og tidlige antiseptik, Sår, 23 (1), 117-18.

Bencard, A. 2014. Our ecosystem is going viral – some thoughts on microbiome metaphors, The Microbiologist 15 (4), 18-20.

Bencard, A. 2014. Du er 100 % gener og 100 % miljø – om epigenetik og biologisk kompleksitet, Generation (exhibition catalogue), Horsens Kunstmuseum.

Bencard, A. 2014. Du er ikke alene: om bevidsthed og bakterier, Im/materialitet 3 (exhibition catalogue), Sorø Kunstmuseum.

Bencard, A . 2014. Presence in the museum: on metonomy, discontinuity and history without stories. Museums and Society 12(1).

Söderqvist, T., Mordhorst, C. and Bencard, A. 2009. Between meaning culture and presence effects: contemporary biomedical objects as a challenge to museums, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40.

Söderqvist, T and Bencard, A. 2009. Do things talk?, in Trischler, H.; Sichau, C. and Pickert, S. (eds.), The Exhibition as a Product and Generator of Scholarship, Berlin: Max Planck Institute for History of Science.

Bencard, A. 2009. Life Beyond Information: Contesting Life and the Body in History and Molecular Biology, in Bauer, S. and Wahlberg, A. (eds.) Contested Categories: Life Science in Society, London: Ashgate.

Söderqvist, T and Bencard, A. 2008. Making sense of sensing the made? Research into presence-production in museums of science, in Cavalli-Björkman, G. and Lindqvist, S. (eds.) Research and Museums, Stockholm: Nationalmuseum.

Bencard, A. 2008. History in the Flesh: Investigating the Historicized Body, Ph.D.-afhandling, Sundhendsvidenskabeligt Fakultet, Københavns Universitet.


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Phone: +45 27 51 15 53

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