Performing Medicine Season (2007)

A series of talks, conversations, performances and workshops which explored the dymanic relationship between medicine and arts. The Season took place across London in venues including Sadler’s Wells, Wellcome Collection and Tate Modern.


30 October, 2007 | Wellcome Collection
Faith McLellan, Elaine Showalter, Thomas Csordas and Brian Hurwitz

From the charismatic faith healer to the heroic consultant to the unassuming charm of Dr. Harold Shipman, this provocative evening of discussion reflected on the complex web of power dynamics at play between doctor and patient. How has the power of the medical profession been celebrated, mediated, manufactured, harnessed or abused throughout history?

Health and Human Rights
5 November, 2007 | Dana Centre
Richard Ashcroft, Vivienne Nathanson, Paul Heritage and Nick Ridout (Chair)

Bellevue Hospital, New York City: male patients (criminal), Wellcome Library, London

In the UN’s Human Development Report 2002, a decent standard of healthcare is described as a human right, ‘inherent in human freedom and dignity’. In this panel discussion three speakers present their views on the relationship between medical care and human rights and how these rights are ‘performed’ by doctors, patients, states and nations. The first speaker is Richard Ashcroft (09:28-13:15), Professor of Bioethics at Queen Mary University of London. Ashcroft describes a tension between medicine in its potential as a tool for both the promotion of and violation of human rights. Vivienne Nathanson (13:15-29:30), is Director of Professional Activities at the British Medical Association, where she teaches on the subjects of public health, medicine and ethics. She argues that doctors may have little grasp of how important they can be in protecting human rights, drawing on the difficulties posed by legal language as a barrier to understanding what the issues are, amongst other things. Paul Heritage (29:30-49:20) is Professor of Drama and Performance at Queen Mary University, who in his talk describes his role as Director of the People’s Palace Projects. He focuses on the project ‘Staging Human Rights’ which was based in prisons in Brazil between 2000-2005. The discussion is introduced by Suzy Willson, Director of Clod Ensemble and the Performing Medicine Project, and Chaired by Nick Ridout, Head of Drama at Queen Mary University, London. ‘Health and Human Rights Part 2’ contains the discussion following these speakers’ presentations.

Medical Gaze
2 December, 2007 | Starr Auditorium, Tate Modern
Kamaldeep Bhui, Bobby Baker, Kira O’Reilly and Vanessa Descluax (Chair)

Bobby Baker, Diary Drawing

How do different artists represent, challenge and engage with the ‘medical gaze’? Chaired by Vanessa Desclaux, Professor of History of Art at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’art in Dijon, this event saw three panellists discussing what medicine and the arts can learn from each other about how each identifies, deconstructs and then reassembles the objects or subjects of its attention. In this recording, the speakers answer questions from the audience, and considerwhether artists and doctors face similar dilemmas in patrolling the ethical dimensions of their work. Kamaldeep Bhui is Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine at Queen Mary Univeristy, London. Bobby Baker is a performance artist whose touring exhibition Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me 1997- 2008 premiered at the Wellcome Collection in 2009, and the accompanying book of the same name won the Mind Book of the Year 2011. Kira O’Reilly is a performance artist, who has collaborated with SymbioticA, a bio-art project based in the department of Human Anatomy at the University of Western Australia.

The Invention of the Body
4 December, 2007 | Wellcome Collection
Sarah Simblet

Acclaimed artist and author of Anatomy for the Artist, Sarah Simblet unveiled the extraordinary construction of the human body and examined the relationship between the sympathetic disciplines of anatomy and art. How have visual artists understood and interpreted flesh and bones across the ages? How has their work advanced scientific enquiry?

11 December, 2007 | Starr Auditorium, Tate Modern
Antonio Damasio

Is there a rift between mind and body in western medicine? Celebrated neuroscientist and best selling author Antonio Damasio exploded dualistic ideas about intelligence and emotion, creativity and rationality, feelings and the facts, art and science, and investigated how contemporary neurology may enrich our understanding of how our bodies function and communicate with each other. Suzy Willson, Artistic Director of the Clod Ensemble Theatre Company and the Performing Medicine project, speaks briefly about his influence on her own work, before introducing Damasio to the stage to speak (03:48-59:18). His presentation does refer to Powerpoint images but his descriptions and arguments are riveting even without these, drawing together medicine, body, mind, brain, art, performance, practice, and ethics under the title ‘Life and the Condition of Living’.


Ether Frolics
3 November, 2007 | Royal London Hospital
Sound & Fury with Artists from the Shunt Collective
"A woozy, wonderful exploration of anesthesia", The Observer
Following on from its 2005 staging, Ether Frolics took an altered trip through the different levels of consciousness that emerge while under the influence of anesthetic drugs. Provocative, disturbing and comic, the immersive performance style invades the mind and stuns the senses...will you you ever be the same again?

What Tammy needs to know about Getting Old and Having Sex
17 November, 2007 | Royal London Hopsital
Lois Weaver
The infamous Tammy WhyNot brought her unorthodox method of inquiry to the taboo subject of age and sex. With the help of sexual health consultants, clinical psychologists and some real live 70, 80 and 90 year sexperts, Tammy asked 'what is is like getting old?' 'What is it like to have sex?' 'What is it like to get old and have sex?'

MUST The inside story
27, 29, 30 November, 2007 |Wellcome Collection
Peggy Shaw and Clod Ensemble
"I keep finding the future inside of me. I hear it coming really loud like a field of windmills or a hive of bees"
Accompanied by a live band, legendary New York performance artist Peggy Shaw excavated the memories and the images that shelter in her joints and unearthed stories and music embedded in layers of bone and dirt.

9 December, 2007 | Royal London Hospital
Brian Lobel
Far from the world of yellow bracelets and pink ribbons, BALL is the story of a young man and his quirky and unique struggle against cancer. This irreverent, honest and witty one-man show challenges the Lance Armstrong 'inspirational' cancer narrative to reveal the sperm bank, the catheters and the hair loss in all their glory.


The Expressive Body
8 November, 2007 | Sadler's Wells
John Wright and Suzy Willson
Using movement exercises, theatre games and John Wright's extraordinary collection of 'archetypal' masks, this workshop investigated how posture and physical tension affect the way we communicate and looked at the ways we manage (or mismanage) power and status transactions at work.

19 November, 2007 | Wellcome Collection
Split Britches and Dr. Alison Mears
Split Britches have been creating performance which celebrates difference for over 25 years. Through a series of creative writing exercises, Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver and Dr. Alison Mears, explored how ideas of difference, sexuality and age may affect our experience of going to see a doctor.

Ways of Seeing
20 November, 2007 | Tate Modern
Liz Ellis

An opportunity to reflect on the link between art, health and the everyday by exploring a range of modern and contemporary artworks at Tate Modern. This workshop took place in the gallery spaces, using a variety of activities and sketchbooks.

Making Art in Healthcare Settings
22 November, 2007 | Tate Modern
Deborah Padfield, Helen Marshall and Rosetta Life
Three artists reflected on their very different experiences of working in healthcare settings through a series of practical exercises. How can we find a visual language for pain? What are the ethical issues at stake when working with patients? How can artists collaborate with medics to improve the experience of being in hospital?

Anatomical Art
5 December, 2007 | Wellcome Collection
Sarah Simblet
Sarah Simblet teaches anatomy and art at Ruskin College, Oxford. In this practical workshop she will draw on examples from the Wellcome Collection to investigate how the experience of actually drawing a human body can enhance our understanding of how it functions.

Full Day Symposium: The Uses of Arts in Medical Training
21 November, 2007 | Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
What can arts offer medical students to help them become confident, rigorous, communicative, inspired doctors?

Professor Alan Bleakley (Deputy Director, Institute of Clinical Education, Peninsular Medical School)
Anthony Woods (Head of Medicine, Society and History Grants, Wellcome Trust)
Professor Morag Shiach (Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning, Queen Mary, University of London)
Performing Medicine student steering group (with students from Barts, Kings and Imperial)
Sylvan Baker, Barbara Housemann, Niamh Dowling, Brian Lobel, Peggy Shaw, Lois Weaver.