Picturing the Invisible: Two-day conference
The Picturing the Invisible conference was organised as part of a one-year Research Network Grant funded by the Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC). This two-day event brought together leading academics from a wide range of disciplines including art and design, architecture, curatorial practice, literature, forensic science, medical science, psychoanalysis & psychotherapy, philosophy and astrophysics, with a shared interest in exploring how, in each discipline, we strive to find expression for the invisible or unknown.
This conference was convened by Professor Paul Coldwell (UAL) and Professor Ruth Morgan (UCL).
Unnamed territories of the body by Roger Kneebone
Roger Kneebone has outlined a collaborative project between scientists, clinicians, craftsmen and performers around ‘doing’, which culminated in a symposium at Imperial College London in October 2017. The symposium ‘The Art of Performing Science’ focused on the embodied ways of knowing that underpin expert practice, providing instances of cross-boundary similarity and difference. Professor Kneebone used this example to explore ideas of the invisible in representations of the body in medical and surgical practice. He discussed the ‘unnamed territories of the body’ which, though well known to clinicians through experience, are seldom acknowledged in textbooks or illustrations. It is often in such unnamed territories that expert ‘doing’ is most clearly seen.
Roger Kneebone is a clinician and educationalist who leads the Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Music - Imperial Centre for Performance Science. His multidisciplinary research into contextualised simulation and embodied knowledge builds on his personal experience as a surgeon and a general practitioner and his interest in domains of expertise beyond medicine. In addition to his work with Imperial scientists and clinicians, Roger collaborates with the Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Royal College of Art. In 2017 he became the first Honorary Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Art School and is a member of the Art Workers Guild. He is the 2018 Gresham College Visiting Professor of Medical Education and in 2019 became the fourteenth Royal Academy of Arts Professor of Anatomy. Roger presents Countercurrent, a fortnightly iTunes podcast featuring 40-minute conversations with people whose interests and careers cross disciplinary boundaries.
Imaging medieval manuscripts in UCL’s Special Collections: Adam Gibson, Katy Makin and Tabitha Tuckett
University College London (UCL) is host to a number of collections of medieval manuscripts, printed books and archives. One part of the collection contains 157 medieval manuscript fragments. Most of these fragments were collected in the early twentieth century and form an eclectic collection of manuscripts of different styles, ages, languages and subjects. Many fragments were preserved by being reused as bindings or covers for later books, but this often resulted in damage: most have been cut, many are torn and faded and some have residues of glues or other stains, or are overwritten with text relating to the books that they covered.
This means that the text of the fragments is often illegible – or invisible – to the naked eye, and Adam Gibson, Katy Makin and Tabitha Tuckett have had an ongoing programme of work aimed at imaging these fragments. This has been a productive cross-disciplinary collaboration, allowing imaging scientists to test new techniques on historically relevant objects, while gradually revealing insights into some of the fragments. They have listed and photographed most of the fragments and carried out various imaging studies on them.
In their presentation, the authors have described the scientific imaging approaches they have employed to examine these objects, and presented some imaging case studies, inviting us to reflect on the value and challenges of imaging as part of the workflow for libraries and archives.
Adam Gibson is a Professor of Heritage Science and Medical Physics at University College London and has developed the use of optical tomography, electrical impedance tomography and terahertz imaging to image the human body. His particular interest is in multi-modality imaging, to highlight features that cannot be seen by one imaging method alone. He is also involved in heritage imaging, carrying out multispectral imaging of documents and paintings and applying medical imaging techniques to heritage samples.
Katy Makin is an archivist at University College London where she manages the collections of deposited and donated archives, including medieval and early modern manuscripts. She is particularly interested in the provenance and use of UCL’s collection of manuscript fragments and the ways in which modern imaging techniques can reveal this historical information.
Tabitha Tuckett is a rare-books librarian at University College London, where she has been collaborating with Adam Gibson on a number of projects using medical imaging techniques to help answer bibliographic questions about rare books, manuscripts, archives and records. She is interested in developing ways of working that can address the research questions of both imaging scientists and collection curators. Initially an academic in Classics and Renaissance literature, she has been involved in inter-disciplinary research projects on literature, visual arts and collections with the Slade, British Museum and Universitat de Barcelona.
Dark Matter: 95% of the Universe is Missing by Sandra Ross
One of the most profound mysteries in contemporary physics is dark matter. It is thought that normal matter - matter which we can see - makes up just 5% of the universe. Dark Matter makes up 25% of the universe and the even more elusive Dark Energy constitutes the rest. Dark matter is invisible and yet it is everywhere and passes through everything. Scientists have been searching for it for nearly a century - but it has never been directly observed, scientists don’t know what it is made of and some are not sure if it even exits.
So how do you make a physical exhibition on something that is invisible, imperceptible and unknown?
Sandra Ross discussed the exhibition ‘Dark Matter: 95% of the Universe is Missing’ which she curated at Science Gallery London in Summer 2019. She talked us through how 14 international contemporary artists investigated dark matter’s theory and its contradictions, as well as more broadly examined matter, fundamental physics, sites of science, invisibility and the limits of knowledge
Sandra Ross is a curator and creative producer with an active interest in interdisciplinary artistic practices that examine the connections and divergences between art, science, philosophy and technology. She has curated over 60 exhibitions and this year curated ‘Taste the Sky,’ an exhibition in Saudi Arabia that involved working with world leading scientists in creating the world’s lightest dessert, and ‘Dark Matter: 95% of the Universe is Missing’, a group exhibition and series of events at Science Gallery London.
She has worked as a curator at the Arts Catalyst and at Pump House Gallery, where she later became the Director. In 2011 Sandra co-founded the experimental space The Hidden Noise in Glasgow and has also curated and produced exhibitions, events programmes and festivals including for British Council, Film London, Arts Council England and Science Museum.
2: Communications & Language
The Formidable Challenge of (MRI): Invisible Prostate Cancer by Joseph Norris and Mark Emberton
Widespread adoption of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has now elevated us from the dark ages of prostate cancer diagnosis. The introduction of transrectal ultrasound enabled us to visualise the prostate itself, but for decades, we were blind to the presence and location of cancer within the prostate, and this created a dual insult of under-diagnosis (of important cancer) and over-diagnosis (of unimportant cancer). MRI has now corrected for this, by revealing what was previously invisible – the architecture, shape, and size of the prostate gland, and importantly, the existence of significant tumours within. However, particular prostate cancers remain invisible to MRI – and it is this challenge that we are working to overcome.
Invisible cancer poses a series of difficult questions, each warranting a collaborative, inter-disciplinary response. Firstly, mechanisms of cancer invisibility on MRI are complex, and understanding these requires detailed research at the level of the scan, the radiologist, the prostate, and the tumour. Next, the true clinical importance of invisible cancer remains a paramount concern – does it really matter if we cannot see it? To solve this, we must take a broader view, assessing behaviour of invisible disease over time, whilst exploring the factors that matter most to the patients themselves. Finally, by consolidating on lessons learnt, we can address what may be the most difficult challenge of all – how do we visualise the invisible?
Mark Emberton is Professor of Interventional Oncology at UCL, an Honorary Consultant Urologist at University College Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Founding Pioneer of the charity Prostate Cancer UK. Professor Emberton’s clinical research is aimed at improving the diagnostic and risk stratification tools and treatment strategies for prostate cancer (PCa); he specialises in the implementation of new imaging techniques, nanotechnologies, bio-engineering materials and non-invasive treatment approaches, such as high intensity focused ultrasound and photo-dynamic therapy.
Joseph Norris is a Specialist Registrar in Urology in the London Deanery. He is also the Medical Research Council (MRC) Doctoral Fellow at University College London (UCL), under the supervision of Professor Mark Emberton. Joseph's research is centred around prostate cancer that is not detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To uncover the nature and significance of MRI-invisible prostate cancer, Joseph is examining the clinical, radiological, histopathological, biological and genetic characteristics of this disease, in-depth. He is also interested in exploring the views that patients have about prostate cancer that is invisible on MRI, to address the challenge of cancer-invisibility with a truly holistic approach.
Implicit Relationship Experience and Picturing the Invisible in Psychoanalysis by Stephan Doering
Early experiences in relationships shape the personality of every human being. In the first years of life these experiences are encoded and stored as memories in the brain which are implicit and unconscious. These memories are not symbolised or verbalised, but consist of bodily states and affective experiences. In psychoanalytic treatment the analyst´s task is to picture these invisible traces of experiences by creating metaphors and narratives together with the patient. This creative process is more than a merely cognitive act. It rather involves a relationship experience between patient and analyst that takes places primarily on an unconscious level and creates affective experiences and fantasies that are communicated nonverbally by means of facial expression, postures and gestures, prosody and sound of the voice as well as smell. Empirical experiments show how these implicit channels of communication lead to a significant and empathic understanding between individuals.
Stephan Doering is Professor of the Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. He is a medical doctor specialised in psychiatry and psychotherapy, as well as in psychosomatic medicine. Moreover, he is a psychoanalyst and member of the Viennese and the International Psychoanalytical Association (WPV, IPA). He is mainly engaged in clinical research on diagnosis and treatment of patients with personality disorders, particularly borderline. He is president of the European Society for the Study of Personality Disorders (ESSPD) and past president of the International Society for Transference-focused Psychotherapy (ISTFP). He has published numerous research articles and books, and he is editor or associate editor of four international scientific journals.
Absence and Presence within Collections by Paul Coldwell
The presentation of art can never be conducted in a neutral space. All locations carry with them histories and associations against which the artist’s work is read and interpreted. However, the notion of the ‘white cube’ as a space supposedly stripped of external references has become synonymous with contemporary art. But an alternative scenario is offered by the increasing willingness of museums and collections to open their doors to the interpretation of contemporary artists and the staging of their work within these contested setting. This paper focused on a number of projects by the artist, which have been the result of research within specific collections and the presentation of the resulting work in exhibitions which intentionally set up a dialogue with the museum and its collection, making visible, invisible presences. Projects explored will include 'I Called when you were out' (2008-09) a series of interventions in the house at Kettle’s Yard Cambridge suggesting how family life had been edited out in favour of a pure aesthetic, 'Temporally Accessioned' (2016-17), a project with the Freud Museums in Vienna and London, conjuring the absent presence of Freud and how his exile could serve as a means to make visible the plight of the migrant and most recently 'Picturing the Invisible' - the house seen from below for the Sir John Soane Museum (July-October 2019) where the author has viewed the house from the often invisible perspective of those below stairs.
Paul Coldwell is Professor in Fine Art (Printmaking) at the University of the Arts London where he is engaged in supporting practice-based research. As an artist his practice includes prints, book works, sculptures and installations. He has exhibited widely, his work held in numerous public collections, including Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), British Museum, Arts Council of England and the Musee d’art et d’histoire, Geneva and selected for many international Biennials including Cracow, Ljubljana, Split and Warsaw. In addition, he writes regularly for the journals Art in Print and Print Quarterly (on which he serves on the editorial board). He is principle investigator for the AHRC funded Network, Picturing the Invisible.
3: Absences & Voids
Exhibiting Architecture: Absence and the Everyday by Owen Hopkins
Owen Hopkin’s interest in the idea of 'picturing absence' relates to his practice as a curator of and writer about architecture. In particular, he is interested in the notion of presence/absence when architecture is put on display, whether this is in, or as a museum, such as the Soane; some kind of exhibition; or even when it is represented through photography in the architectural press. Inhabitation or simply human presence is, arguably, what distinguishes a building (which could be occupied solely by machines: for example, a data centre) from a work of architecture. Yet to put architecture on display is very often to show it devoid of human presence, in architectural drawings, models, photographs, that focus on the built form. Attempts to re-integrate human presence into the display of architecture by dissolving the distinction between architecture and exhibition – the exhibition as architecture – for example, the pavilion or immersive, 1:1 installation – often resort to the tactics of the stage-set and so lose the connection to the real world they are so concerned with forging.
Owen Hopkins is Senior Curator at Sir John Soane’s Museum where he leads the exhibitions and learning teams. Prior to that he was curator of the architecture programme at the Royal Academy of Arts. His interests revolve around the interactions between architecture, politics, technology and society. He is curator of numerous exhibitions including most recently Eric Parry: Drawing (2019), Code Builder (with Mamou-Mani Architects), Out of Character (with Studio MUTT), The Return of the Past: Postmodernism in British Architecture (all 2018) and Adam Nathaniel Furman: The Roman Singularity (2017). A frequent commentator on architecture in the press, he is author of five books, including Lost Futures (2017), Mavericks (2016) and From the Shadows (2015). In addition he is editor of four volumes/series of essays, including a special issue of AD and Year Zero, a collaboration with Machine Books. Alongside various exhibition projects, he is currently working on a major visual survey of postmodern architecture.
The Dissolving View of Anna Mary Howitt by Susan Tallman
The English artist and author Anna Mary Howitt (1824-1884) has staged a triple disappearing act: first by abandoning her visible career as a Pre-Raphaelite painter in order to devote herself to ‘spirit drawings’ made in a mediumistic trance; second, by later abandoning spirit drawings in favour of immaterial clairvoyance; and third, in having made choices so difficult for the twentieth-century historians to fathom that she has largely been written out of the histories of art, politics and culture in which she was an active lifelong figure. This presentation looked into these various vanishings and what they might say about her times and ours.
Susan Tallman is an art historian and Editor-in-Chief of the journal and website Art in Print. She has written extensively on the history and culture of the print, as well as on issues of authenticity and replication. For several years she has also conducted research on the life of the 19th-century painter and spiritualist Anna Mary Howitt. Her books include The Contemporary Print: from Pre-Pop to Postmodern (Thames and Hudson),The Collections of Barbara Bloom (Steidl). Most recently she co-authored the catalogue for the British Museum exhibition, The American Dream: Pop to the Present. Her writing has appeared in New York Review of Books, Art in America, Parkett, Arts Magazine and many museum catalogues. An ex-New Yorker, she currently lives in Berlin and Chicago, where she also teaches in the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
3: Absences & Voids (continued)
The Universe´s vacuum is anything but empty by Jose-Eliel Camargo-Molina
The vacuum energy of the universe determines the laws governing everything within. But, how stable is it? In this talk Jose-Eliel discussed vacuum decay, a physical phenomenon where the invisible vacuum suddenly changes, and with it, the universe as we know it. Jose-Eliel invited the audience to see how he uses this to test new theories for figuring out if the Higgs particle could destroy our universe.
Eliel Camargo-Molinais a theoretical physicist trying to understand how some of the "largest" things in the universe (such as dark energy, vacuum energy or dark matter) are related to the "tiniest" ones (such as the Higgs boson, electrons or quarks). Besides his research, he also tries to drag other basic science researchers out of their labs and blackboards and into interdisciplinary processes. He is co-founding director of the Art & Science Initiative.
The Invisible between Philosophy, Art, and Pregnancy by Tanja Staehler
Philosophy distinguishes between more superficial and deeper senses of the invisible. Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger argue that art helps us explore the genuine or deep invisible. Tanja discussed works by Louise Bourgeois and Cindy Sherman to engage with the invisible of pregnancy and childbirth. She looked at Paul Coldwell’s work to illustrate implications of the invisible for social relations and ethics.
Tanja Staehler is Professor of European Philosophy at the University of Sussex and Co-Director (with Paul Davies) of the Centre for Literature and Philosophy. In her work, she focuses on the beginning of philosophy, the relation between philosophy and art, and philosophy of the body. She has published several monographs, including Plato, Levinas, and the Ambiguous Out-Side of Ethics (2010) as well as Hegel, Husserl, and the Phenomenology of Historical Worlds (2016). She has published articles on phenomenological method, dance theatre, literature, pregnancy, and childbirth.
Forensic Science: revealing the unseen and the unknown by Ruth Morgan
Forensic science is an interdisciplinary endeavour that applies science, social science and humanities approaches to the reconstruction of events and to provide insights into questions of 'who?', 'what?', 'when?' and 'how?'. In forensic science we grapple with rarely ever truly knowing what actually happened at a particular crime event, and therefore our scientific approaches face the challenge of reconstructing events from the inferences we can make from the clues that are recovered. Forensic science also brings together the physical, digital and human worlds in a highly distinctive manner, and this leads to additional complex challenges. We are currently in the position where the technological advances have been significant and we can now 'see' smaller and smaller traces, to greater degrees of accuracy and in shorter time frames than ever before. This has led to a preoccupation with answering the 'what' and 'who' questions, often proliferated by the representations of forensic investigations in popular culture. This has led to a situation where we are frequently able to 'see' what a trace is and who it belongs to, but we do not have the foundational understanding and evidence base to always 'see what it means' in the context of a specific case. The challenge of misinterpreted evidence is both an issue of being able to see more than ever before, but at the same time not seeing what is important, and what is needed to effectively communicate an accurate reconstruction of the crime.
Professor Ruth Morgan is the Director of the UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences and Professor of Crime and Forensic Science at UCL. The Centre seeks to carry out a strategic and multidisciplinary research programme in collaboration with external partners and forensic science stakeholders. Professor Morgan has received the PW Allen Award from the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences for best publication in the Chartered Society of Forensic Science journal 'Science and Justice' in 2006, 2017 and 2019. She is a World Economic Forum Young Scientist, and was the Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Inquiry into Forensic Science. She is also the Vice Chair of the London Geological Society Forensic Geoscience Group, and the Co-I for the AHRC Picturing the Invisible network. She is a regular speaker and advocate for addressing the challenges faced in forensic science with problem-based research that has an impact in the ‘real world’.
Picturing the Mind by Irene Tracey
Is it possible to 'see pain'? Can we image consciousness? Will we ever really unravel the mystery of your mind and all its workings? Modern brain imaging tools are giving us unprecedented insight into how the human brain thinks, makes decisions and constructs perceptions. In this talk, Irene presented a number of examples drawn from her work on pain and anaesthesia, alongside other studies in the neuroimaging neuroscience domain, just how we're harnessing these tools to 'picture the invisible' at an individual through to population level.
Professor Irene Tracey holds the Nuffield Chair of Anaesthetic Science and is Head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford – a 550-person world-leading basic and clinical research department. Irene was a founding member of the Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB – now Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging) and was its Director from 2005 until 2015. Over the past 20 years her personal multidisciplinary research team has contributed to a better understanding of pain perception, pain relief and nociceptive processing within the injured and non-injured human central nervous system using advanced neuroimaging techniques and novel paradigm designs. More recently, they have been investigating the neural basis of altered states of consciousness induced by anaesthetic agents. Irene has served and continues to serve on many national and international committees, such as the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), British Neuroscience Association, Lundbeck Brain Prize Committee and is currently appointed to the Council of the Medical Research Council. In 2008 she was awarded the triennial Patrick Wall Medal from the Royal College of Anaesthetists and in 2009 was made an FRCA for her contributions to the discipline. In 2015 she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and in 2017 won the Feldberg Foundation Prize followed in 2018 by the British Neuroscience Association’s Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience award. In September 2019, she will become the Warden of Merton College, Oxford – a college dating back to 1264.
The Undiscovered Country of Invisible Meanings by Roberto Trotta
Perhaps the most important - and often invisible - barrier to cross-disciplinary collaboration is the different use of language between disciplines. The ‘The Dictionary of Invisible Meanings’ project invited members of the ‘Picturing the Invisible’ network to build bridges across the specialised meanings of the same word in different disciplines. Roberto reported on what the different usages reflect in terms of disciplinary understanding, highlighting commonalities and unsuspected differences. It is argued that the ensuing fuller perception of multi-faceted disciplinary inflections might lead to more fluids cross-disciplinary practices.
Roberto Trotta is a Professor in Astrostatistics at Imperial College London, where he is also the Director of the Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication, and responsible for programmes delivering humanities, languages and science communication education to over 4500 students at Imperial. He is also a Visiting Professor of Cosmology at Gresham College London. His research in cosmology aims at elucidating the nature of dark matter and dark energy in the cosmos, which together account for 95% of the contents of the universe and yet are - in a conventional sense - invisible. Prof Trotta is an experienced science communicator, who develops novel ways of making abstract concepts in cosmology more tangible for the public at large, and seeks to make astronomy communication more inclusive. He has collaborated with chefs and human-machine interaction experts to design immersive experiences that convey cosmological ideas in a multi-sensory fashion. Prof Trotta is the recipient of numerous awards for his research, teaching and public engagement, including the Lord Kelvin Award of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the Michelson Prize of Case Western Reserve University and the Chair George Lemaitre of the University of Louvain. His award-winning first book for the public, ‘The Edge of the Sky’ explains the Universe using only the most common 1,000 words in English.
Weaponising the visible: the case of Umm al Hiran by Martyna Marciniak (Forensic Architecture)
In January of 2017 Yaqub Musa Abu alQi’an was killed in a Police raid on Umm al Hiran. The weaponisation of the event’s optics as documented and broadcast in the media resulted in gaps, breaks and blurring of vision. This obfuscation became key to the understanding of the event. Martyna's talk further discussed the ecology of interactions between cameras and weapons in the aftermath of the killing.
Martyna Marciniakis a Researcher at Forensic Architecture. She completed her MArch in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. She is interested in development of new techniques for media analysis and interpretation, the relationship between the human body and built environment and feminist open source investigation practices.
Forensic Architecture (FA) is a research agency, based at Goldsmiths, University of London. The agency undertakes advanced spatial and media investigations into cases of human rights violations, with and on behalf of communities affected by political violence, human rights organisations, international prosecutors, environmental justice groups and media organisations.
FA uses architectural analysis and digital modelling techniques to unravel the complexity of evidence and to present information in a convincing, precise, and accessible manner.
Picturing the Invisible: Exhibition
The conference was accompanied by a pop-up exhibition in the Triangle Space at Chelsea College of Arts. It was curated by Abbi Fletcher and featured works by students at Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon, including:
Altea Grau Vidal
Maria Clara Lorusso & Lara Orawski
The exhibition responded to the ideas behind the network and investigated the contemporary and historical contexts of art and science and provided the artists a platform to express their own ‘unknown’ in exploring themes of discovery in research, production and practice. It invited us to investigate the manifold ways by which artists deal with forms and concepts that are otherwise familiar with renewed appearances and meanings.