IntroductionScientists and artists came together for an unusual public event at Plymouth Arts Centre.
The free workshop, open to all, was organised by Professor Steve Hughes of Egenis and Dr Deborah Robinson, lecturer in fine art at the University of Plymouth, and attracted more than 60 participants.
“Models as Active Spaces explored the ways in which models appear and function in practice within our culture, bringing together artists and scientists to engage with one another’s work and discuss the use of models in science and art, as representations, as abstractions, and as ways to make sense of the world,” explained Dr Robinson.
“We are all exposed to models constantly,’ said Professor Hughes, ‘From the iconic representation of DNA as a twisted ladder or double helix, through the metaphors used in conversation, to the complex dynamic mathematical functions represented in the daily weather forecast. Models are fun and a source of stimulation. This workshop brought together a collection of practitioners in an open public forum of discussion to share their ideas and experiences and to construct a rich awareness of modelling and models at work.”
Following an introduction by Prof Hughes, Dr Sabina Leonelli (Egenis) began with an examination of model organisms, including zebrafish, drosophila, arabidopsis and, of course, the lab rat or mouse. Dr Robinson and her collaborator David Strang presented their work in progress Fish-Eye-I, an visual and auditory artwork which takes as its subject the fish facility at Bath University. Dr Ed Ramsden of the Centre for Medical History spoke about 'Rat cities and beehive worlds', looking at the the influence of natural structures on urban planning and the built environment.
Artist Sarah Bennett (University of Plymouth) presented her work 'Re-modelling the model' which explores marks left in the walls of the abandoned Devon county lunatic asylum. Her animated films recreate the mark-making process. Consultant radiologist Dr Judy Harington (Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital) asked 'The art of medicine - is it dead?' Through an overview of medical imaging from X-rays to MRI scans, she examined the question of whether reliance on technologies has killed the art of medicine. Finally, designer Jo Harrington (Goldsmith's College) in 'Tales/tails on the hybrid' looked at the construction and idea of otherness.
The presentations were interspersed with lively debate about the themes which emerged from the afternoon's talks, the nature of models and the relationship between science and art, all ably chaired by Professor Mike Phillips of the Institute of Digital Art and Technology at the University of Plymouth.