'Atopic' Residency

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The 'Atopic' residency creative research works were presented as part of the V&A Digital Futures event @ EVA London 2018, at BSC - The Chartered Institute for IT, Covent Garden, London. This was a show-and-tell session presenting a series of creative research artworks developed by the author during an ‘Atopic’ micro-residency, at the laboratory of Professor Sara Brown, within the School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Scotland, organised by ASCUS Art & Science. The Brown Lab is an eczema genetic research facility undertaking translational research (i.e. taking findings from basic science to enhance human health). The author spent time observing the day to day activities of the lab, from carefully nurturing artificial skin cells, to the precise, complex and delicate processes used to analyse these samples. The artificial skin cells are both real and synthetic; taken from an actual person (in theatre via tummy tucks, breast surgery, etc.), they are processed and maintained outside of the body. Their genes are changed, tweaked, to create eczema skin. Almost indescribably similar and different from the cells that exist within our actual body. They are other.The micro-residency resulted in a series of artworks: ‘We began as part of the body’ (a 6 minute spoken word sound piece), ‘Exhume’ (a series of 3D printed skin cells) and the ‘Atopic’ images (360 degrees photography). These elements were intended as a research library of materials, the initial stage towards creating an immersive virtual reality experience. The spoken word sound piece, leads the audience through the artificial skin cell culture’s journey during their short, precious, three weeks long 'in-vitro' life, from operating theatre to research lab, and finally to disposal. Artificial skin cells were cultivated and scanned using confocal microscopy to create a series of 3D models, which were 3D printed 2000 times larger-than-life. Blown up into objects that fit in the hand, the cells were given a tangible, physical manifestation, a made-ness. The 360 degrees photography presents the viewer with an immersive experience of the different environments of the lab; a window into a world not normally accessible to the public. Here we are presented with a somewhat ghostly version of the lab environment, without researchers or technicians, inhabited only by specimens; the organotypic, artificial skin. The artworks challenge audiences to think critically about science, the value and implications of genetic research, and the impact this has on our understanding of what it means to be human. The Atopic Residency project attempts to immerse the viewer in the poetic, human and ethical issues that the activities of the lab raise.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2018
EventEVA London 2018: States of Being; Art and Identity in Digital Space and Time - BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT , London, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jul 201812 Jul 2018


ConferenceEVA London 2018
Abbreviated titleEVA
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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