As an artist I am always looking to create multi-layered artworks. Artworks that are not only informed by my own limited perspective, artworks that are formed by some sort of community engagement. When writing the proposal for this commission the Mitochondrial Research team were very keen to have some patient engagement and educational engagement running along side the commission. As you can imagine this was music to my ears.
Patients from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research produced many of the images you will see in this blog post. We started the session by sitting down, having a cup of tea/coffee and we just had an informal chat. What arose from this chat was a conversation about how the condition affects them and their family and friends. What impact it has upon their daily lives, how they feel about the condition, how they feel about the research that is being carried out, what their hopes and dreams were for the future.
The resulting conversation was transformed into a list of key words that the patient participants and their family members compiled (please see images above). As an artist I was moved by their open and honest expression of this very challenging condition. And these words came to shape a very emotive element of the commissioned artwork.
For further details on the photographic microscopy images above please see my previous blog post here
The second task that I gave the group was to look at the photographic microscopy images (please see images above) that I produced during the commission and re-interpret/re-create them within a new media.
The resulting work is their interpretation of the images I produced and breathes new life into the commission while also adding a handmade response my digital photography. It was so interesting seeing through the eyes of the group while also hearing their own personal stories unfold.
Some of the work that was also produced reflected the key words that we discussed, with different visual representations of the patients experience. I think the image below was such a wonderful insight into the challenges of the condition and communicates with simple and beautiful creative clarity.
Involving people who were directly affected by Mitochondrial Disease and their family members was essential to create a multi-layered approach to this commission.
In many ways the participants gave me an insight into the very personal side to Mitochondrial Disease research. It was important from a research point of view to see the affects that pioneering scientific research can have on real people’s lives. And the lifeline that medical intervention and progress offers people who have daily struggles with this condition.
It was wonderful working with a small group of patients who were very generous in volunteering their time and creative talent. The resulting work is rich and diverse, and demonstrates that even with a limited amount of contact time it is possible to have a positive and productive creative outcome.
During our session we did have two researchers within the group. And it was very enlightening to have a greater understanding of their relationship to Mitochondrial Research. They also did a keywords exercise and the mind map below gives you an insight into their own experiences. This added another layer of understanding for me, and demonstrates the continued commitment and passion they have for this area of research.
Of course I couldn’t resist getting involved myself!! Whenever I produce microscopy photography I do see other things emerging from it, a face, a beetle’s shell, an ornate butterfly wing. Something that I fully explore with pupils in the educational workshops I carried out in a school in Gateshead, details of which you will find in my next blog post.
One of the things that jump out at me when I am looking at an image like the one above is some kind of wing structure, like a butterfly or dragonfly wing. Below are the results of my interpretation.
This commission was funded by NICAP (Newcastle Institute of Creative Practice and Engage FMS. More details about NICAP can be found here. And it was supported by The Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research.