Bruno Reynell previews UCL Anatomy Society’s upcoming art show, Disjointed Anatomies.
This weekend sees the opening of UCL Anatomy Society’s first ever art exhibition. Entitled Disjointed Anatomies, the show was jointly conceived by the society’s previous committee and its patron, UCL forensic anatomist Dr Wendy Birch. To find out about what to expect in the South Cloisters on Saturday, I spoke with the exhibition’s director, 5th year medical student Sharon Yip.
Tell us a little about the exhibition’s theme: Disjointed Anatomies. How did you decide on it?
In many past pathology and dissection sessions I have been struck by the disconnect between the visual appreciation of the body and our learning; I think to be able to accurately or faithfully depict anatomy in art, one has to attempt to understand the structural relations, landmarks and borders of the relevant part of the body, which is absolutely crucial to learning medical anatomy.
Similarly, from the first constructions of dissection theatres at the University of Padua in 1594 to media representation in modern surgery, the performative and dramatic nature of demonstrating anatomy has been key to learning. These are concepts rarely explored in a medical context and I wished to provide a place for these interdisciplinary concepts to be addressed.
What do you see as the possibilities offered by what looks to be a crossing of medical, scientific and artistic disciplines?
In medicine we often ignore the physical beauty and grace of anatomy during our study and disregard the visual literacy skills required to accurately interpret imaging and scientific results. I’m certain the opposite could happen for art students with a keen interest in understanding the workings of the body.
We aim to provide a much-needed platform for young people in these varied fields to cultivate autonomous responses to the material of their academic studies, and destabilise the boundaries between art and medicine since there are many intersecting areas in these fields. For example, when one holds a scalpel we are told to hold it as an artist would hold a brush; delicate but primed for precision. I’d also love to make this an opportunity to educate university students on anatomy and expand our visual study of human and non-human bodies.
We’ve heard that there have been a great range of submissions – what can visitors expect in terms of the variety of artists and media?
There are a total of 36 artists from 7 different UK universities who have been selected to the exhibition, ranging from fine artists, medical students, neuroscientists and architecture students. We’ve been very excited to receive sculptures, life drawings, as well as a variety of digital and video artwork – it’s a wonderful mix.
Are there any pieces in particular that you are excited to exhibit?
I’d like to highlight Ece Urun’s Distortion in particular. This work is a digital photoshop collage and I believe it responds sensitively to the theme, as well as being one of several brilliant pieces of digital art at the exhibition.
Are there certain ideas/motifs that you see recurring through the pieces?
From an anthropological point of view, it’s interesting to note the difference in how scientists and art students conceptualise anatomy. This is certainly something we would like to explore in the exhibition, hence the subjects studied for all the artists will be provided alongside their works.
Many submissions have also grappled with how we can represent emotions through bodily constructions. Some reference the works of classical anatomists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and the study of perfect bodily forms as seen in Michelangelo’s sculptures.
Getting everything ready for the exhibition must be a real job – how has preparation been going?
It’s been an incredible journey from creating the basic concept to seeing it all come together this week. My tiny studio apartment in Warren Court has become a gallery overnight and, at the moment, as I’m also constructing and painting the exhibition walls myself (with the help of my team), I’ve found myself having to snake through the maze of artwork and walls in the mornings to get out! One artist even asked if I was having it in my flat: “what an intimate exhibition”.
What other activities can visitors look forward to on the day?
First of all, we have an interactive exhibit where there will be a competition for the ugliest drawing possible of any body part – complete with drawing materials and whatnot, we will pin up entries as they come during the day.
In addition, we will have a table where those who would like to manually learn more about key anatomical structures can interact with anatomical models provided by Dr Wendy Birch’s lab and make drawings of these models.
Finally, after the exhibition, we will be running an artists & friends social for all the artists and interested visitors to the exhibition, so this small interdisciplinary population can meet some like-minded individuals!
Disjointed Anatomies opens in the South Cloisters on Saturday 2nd March. Tickets are just £1.50 and can be obtained through the UCL Union Website. For more information or enquiries visit the Facebook Event Page or email Sharon Yip at zchasyi@ucl .ac.uk.