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Arts, anarchy and cancer: a symposium

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Voronoi cell systems

Screen grabs of Nick Rothwell’s Voronoi cell systems with tumours growing amidst the organisms and causing systemic collapse. The system is based on venous network geometries supplied by Simon Walker-Samuel, senior research associate at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at UCH.

Guy Noble invites you to a discussion of ideas, collaborations and interactions with patients, carers, researchers, clinicians that contributed to a new installation in the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre.

University College London Hospitals believe that the provision of the Arts within a hospital environment is integral to patient wellbeing and to providing a high quality, modern patient-centred NHS and this is certainly the case for the newly built UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre.

From an artistic point of view the Cancer Centre provided me as Curator with an ideal opportunity to not only commission top quality art work which reflected the kind of first class care patients received there but also a chance to work with artists, patients, carers and staff to enable them to have ownership of the Centre and to explore what it meant for them to be in and a part of the cancer environment.

For many, hospital environments are alien and dehumanising places, so it is vital that the environment and in particular the art within it does not accentuate this feeling of alienation. We therefore endeavoured to offer patients, carers and staff with the opportunity to contribute directly to a number of the art commission within the Centre.

One such commission, Anarchy in the Organism, by Simeon Nelson, took the form of an 18 month residency partly funded by the Wellcome Trust and aiming to engage patients, visitors, staff and the general public with the science of cancer and its social, cultural and ethical impact. Certainly a challenging undertaking given the environment and Nelson worked closely with researchers, patients and staff interviewing them on personal, emotional, social, cultural and scientific aspects of cancer.

As an artist who works with ideas from complexity theory, emergence, and the philosophy of science, Nelson is fascinated with the biology of the human body, how it assembles itself into a complex organism and in how we maintain a sense of self within the growing and ageing process. Nelson also worked closely with Simon Walker-Samuel, Senior Research Associate, UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging to generate computer code to simulate cancer life and death. Combining this, the input from patients and a soundscape by composer Rob Godman, Nelson created a digital artwork depicting organisms in different states of growth, mutation and decay as a normal aspect of being alive.

We are keen to engage as many people as possible with this commission and the science of cancer, and so have organised a symposium on 15 June, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The symposium will be a discussion of ideas, collaborations and interactions with patients, carers, researchers, clinicians. The symposium is also part of the London Creativity and Wellbeing Week, which aims to celebrate creativity in health.

To find out more and register for the symposium, visit the website.

Read more about the project and the research that went into it on the Anarchy in the Organism blog.

Guy Noble, Arts Curator UCLH ARTS


Filed under: Development, Ageing and Chronic Disease, Event, Health, Public Engagement, Science Art Tagged: Art, Cancer, Sciart

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