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Professor uses art to promote scientific research

Professor uses art to promote scientific research

A professor from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) together with the University of Southampton has created a body of artwork to advance the public’s understanding of stem cell research.

Kathleen Rogers, Professor of Media, Arts & Science at UCA Farnham, has been working with researchers at the University of Southampton to create a multi-screen video and sound installation of macro-images which communicate the key processes in regenerative medicine.

Professor Rogers says: “The aim of the project is to stimulate interest, lively public debate and reflection on art, ethics and bio-politics surrounding stem cell research.

“An artist’s reflection on scientific research, such as stem cell and regenerative medicine, can promote a broader understanding of science and inform public debate on the ethical and societal challenges of contemporary biomedicine.

“It also recognises emerging paradigms between the disciplines of art and science, particularly in medicine where the cultural and social impacts of biomedical research impact directly on our notions of humanness and future world view.

“I hope my visual research demonstrates how embodied, sensory encounters with digital media in scientific context are intrinsic to the visual literacy of medical research.”

 Professor Rogers has spent the past 10 months working with the Bone and Joint Research Group, led by Professor Richard Oreffo within the Faculty of Medicine, at Southampton to produce 2,000 images of human donor derived tissue and tissue engineered constructs to create the videos which focus on bone and joint research in the stem cell and regenerative medicine space.

She adds: “I chose macro photography as a tool to develop intense concentrated observation and greater self-awareness of both the subject and the working context.

“The fine orchestration of evolutionary processes that drive, govern and connect all of life is being utilised synthetically in science and I am continuously amazed at the ingenuity of research into new nano materials that can mimic these living processes.

 “I believe artists can produce work that can reach across and build bridges between disciplines – it is no longer enough to look at things as art or science in isolation – we need to go beyond these divisions.”

Richard Oreffo, Professor of Musculoskeletal Science, comments: “We have been delighted to welcome Kathleen to our University over the last year and the images she has produced through this collaboration have proved stunning. Stem Cell research can be a controversial area for some people and as scientists we wish to make it more accessible to the public so they can become more informed about the subject area and what our research entails. Art and photography are attractive ways of doing just that and provide a vibrant platform to showcase the potential of stem cells and regenerative medicine.

 “I hope that, through Kathleen’s work, the public are able to gain a broader understanding of stem cell research and regenerative medicine and therefore gain an appreciation of its relevance across the life course, for an increasing ageing population and for society as a whole.”

The videos were produced by Professor Rogers with the help of UCA technical tutors Simon Allmark (editor) and Joe Sudlow (sound design).

The resulting multi-screen, six-channel video and sound installation will be viewed in partial darkness to provide the audience with a reflective space which offers an emotional engagement with both the clinical and ethical dimensions of stem cell research. Professor Rogers’ multi-media installation artworks, drawn from scientific and technological research, have been exhibited internationally for more than two decades.

The residency was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) award to Professor Oreffo and will be exhibited in 2013. Visit www.southampton.ac.uk/medicine/art for more information.

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