Sunday, March 11, 2007


Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 08:56:42 -0000

SESSION TWO: ARTISTS IN THE LABS, some observations Andrew Carnie

Within my artistic practise I have the experience of visiting many labs. However I have not spent much time working in the lab alongside scientists. When I did work with Richard Wingate
on one particular occasion I do remember rather messing up the ‘staining’ I was carrying out of chick embryos; I figure it was just lack of practise. On most visits to see Richard it has been to spend lengthy sessions in discussion on the topics Richard has mentioned in his previous postings. There has always been this talk based around the theme of the science and then much talk on technical matters, video editing and computers. During the course of these talks visits would be made form his office to the long shared lab of the developmental neurology unit part of which he occupies with his research team, to look at progress on particular projects, to view prepared slides he was excited about or to see new material through the confocal microscope.

I would have liked more time in the lab, but money and the finance to free up this time to do this, has always been limited. But as I suspect as cited in the scientists diaries previously there are many aspects to life, science, and art, and many things come in the way of a smooth progress. This bumpy changing route has lead for me to all sorts of serendipitous events leading to new practises, unexpected visual adventures and fortuitous discoveries.

I suppose in part I also fear spending too much time in any one particular lab, being engaged and absorbed too much. I wonder how many interesting and strong works I could necessarily make embedded in a lab for a long period, say anything over a year. I have often been looking for the particular essence of the science I am approaching, the idea and sometimes this is quite quickly gained. Further time in the lab might be wasted in my case. However in general I would love to see more integration between the sciences and the arts, as I would in fact for all fields of study. What I have been able to do is to swap and move between collaborators and this jumping about has its benefits. It has brought refreshment and new ideas to the artistic endeavour each time. On route I have worked with neurologists and geneticists and currently I am working with a neuro-psychologist on Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and then with a heart transplant team with Margrit Shildrick.

One big defining aspect in this research process is the actual time spent on any resulting artistic work. Making the work I produce is often very labour intensive. The piece I completed for the Art and Mind Festival, Winchester,, last year with the production of some 648 images to make the complete time-based slide dissolve piece, ‘We Are Where We Are’, was about six months fairly solid labour. This is not an uncommon amount of time to spend on any one work which involved photography drawing and endless computer manipulation. It is obviously an aspect controlling the amount of time I could spend in any lab. The reverse is true for scientists finding time to discuss their work is always very difficult. Richard Wingate has always been very generous and we continue to meet to talk despite our projects have been completed a few years back.

In my visits to science labs there are elements of practise which I have seen which I would like to bring back to the studio. Some of the organisation has been impressive. My own applications to funding bodies have always been sporadic but I liked the organised manner in which I saw scientific teams have the expectation they would always be making applications, it was a more automated continuous process. Obviously the number of participants in a team and the different skills they offer allow this. I certainly like the experience of the labs I have been in, often quite open plan in nature there seems to be a good deal of interchange between professionals. Artists tend to be quite lone individuals isolated from others. The common sense of purpose in Richard’s lab has always seemed comforting, more minds working towards one goal is exciting. I have since experiencing these various labs been much keener on joint projects and working within interdisciplinary teams. The Heart project with Margrit Shildrick mentioned above involves 3 other artists an anthropologist and philosopher.

Andrew Carnie

Artist and Lecturer

Winchester School of Art

Southampton University

We Are Where We Are 2006, for the Art and Mind Festival, Winchester. Eight projector slide dissolve work. Five photographs one diagram of the layout. Images by Andrew Carnie.
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