We Began as Part of the Body

An augmented reality and filmic experience inspired by eczema skin genetic research

Image courtesy of the artist
 
We first met Beverley Hood in early 2017, when she participated in our Atopic Art Micro-Residency. Embarking on a residency period of 20 days, immersed in the skin genetic research at Brown Lab led by Professor Sara Brown, we didn’t know what to expect or what new ideas might emerge from this journey. Our residencies are purposefully designed to be exploratory in nature, encouraging and supporting the artist to navigate this new context and allowing room for the creative process and creative thinking to flourish, within these unfamiliar surroundings.

“My practice interrogates the impact of technology on the body, relationships, and human experience through the creation of digital media and performance arts projects, and writing.”

Technology today is moving faster than ever and the impact that different media have on our relationships with our bodies, our sense of self and our relationship with others is undeniable. In the age of Covid-19 these relationships with technology have accelerated ever further, with family Zoom meetings and exercise classes now being the norm. How does this further affect the way we define what it means to be human?

‘Belly Dancer’ gently jiggling cells in Brown Lab
Over the course of a few months Beverley observed closely as Sheila Wright, Sara’s former lab technician, meticulously nurtured the keratinocytes and fibroblasts, the cells in our body responsible for the epidermis, the outer protective layer of the skin, and those responsible for it’s structural framework. She followed the journey of these cells, watching the methods of cultivating and processing, through staining, capturing, and slicing, and how this provided meaning about the cells and their behaviours.

Nurturing Keratinocytes & Fibroblasts in Brown Lab
Organotypic skin culture in Brown Lab
Confocal Microscope at Ninewells Hospital
 

The artworks that emerged from these initial experiences directly in the lab, using scientific equipment for creative exploration, became the first iteration of We Began as part of the Body as part of Beyond Skin Exhibition in LifeSpace Science Art Research Gallery, at the College of Life Sciences in Dundee. These took the form of eye catching 3D printed skins cells magnified 2,000 times their original size, accompanied by an immersive sound piece where the skin cells themselves share with you their own life story.

 

“These artworks became a library of materials, an initial stage towards creating a mixed reality experience. Added to by LIDAR scans of the ASCUS Lab, at Summerhall, Edinburgh, the project materials are combined to present audiences with an immersive encounter with the artificial cell cultures and their lived, disembodied experience. The artwork overlaps the digitally captured lab and artificial skin cells, with the physical 3D printed objects, narrated by the skin cells and is being presented as an augmented reality and filmic experience.”

These artworks have gone on to be shown in further international exhibitions and events and this new augmented reality and filmic experience will be shown for the first time as part of Being Human Festival 2020.

Click Here to view the online exhibition hosted at Inspace

Click Here to join the We Began as part of the Body live event taking place as part of this year’s Festival.

Photographs courtesy of Beverley Hood & Erika Stevenson

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