Transformations: Sharing knowledge about territories and practices in the Medical Humanities (Conference, Northumbria University, 28th June 2016)

From its roots as an interdisciplinary field of medicine concerned primarily with the role of arts and humanities in the education of medical staff, through to newer and emerging practices that connect a wider range of disciplinary expertise to a broader circle of care in health and well-being, the medical/health humanities continuously challenge and disrupt ideas about how to create healthier and more compassionate societies. This informal symposium will share knowledge, raise questions and generate discussion about how research practice connects to the global societal challenges that exist in advancing human health and social wellbeing.

Programme:

13.40 – 14.00 Liz Pavey Performance: Foyer Northumberland Rd Entrance Sutherland Bldg.

14.00 – 14.10 Welcome

14.10 – 14.25 Dr Matt Hargrave

14.25 – 14.40 Dr Deborah James

14.40 – 14.55 Louise Mackenzie

15.10 – 15.20 Charlotte Bilby

15.20 – 15.35 Prof Clark Lawlor

15.35 – 15.50 Prof Chris Dorsett

15.50 – 16.05 Dr Catherine Bailey

16.05 – 17.00 Questions/Discussion

Programme Abstracts

Liz Pavey: Take Your Seats on Campus. Is an improvised performance by Liz Pavey with Paula Turner and the Grand Gestures Dance Collective. Using simple everyday actions of sitting, shifting within chairs, arriving into and leaving chairs, the performance explore the body’s relationship to seating, inviting the audience to reconsider the everyday. Chairs are a significant feature of our somatic experience of the modern world shaping our physicality, our embodied memories, and our interactions with others. Before the chair spread across the world, humanity had the greatest repertory of postures of any species. Edward Tenner ‘Our Own Devices’

Dr Matt Hargrave: Reframing disability as poetics. This paper draws on my recent book, Theatres of Learning Disability: Good Bad or Plain Ugly? which focuses exclusively on theatre and learning disability as theatre, rather than advocacy or therapy. This focus has implications for medicine, social care and the humanities because it changes the emphasis from questions of social benefit towards a genuine engagement with aesthetic judgement. The paper gives an overview of these implications and maps out new projects that have emerged since publication, not least the persistent reoccurrence of Melville’s Bartleby, as subject of ambiguous resistance.

Dr Deborah James: I am interested in perspective transformation and how we can create space in discourse around video footage that enhances opportunity for initiative making with attuned interactions. I will talk about what it means to be a helper drawing on examples of my work using video feedback in the context health, education and social care.

Louise Mackenzie: (Forgive me for I am) A Curious Animal. My practice-based research explores the use of the micro-organism as medium. Working in collaboration with the Institute of Genetic Medicine, I use synthetic biology techniques within art practice to develop works that speculate on our relationship with the unseen organism. The research is situated in the context of the predicted biotechnological revolution (Gardner & Hawkins, 2013; Savulescu & Venter, 2012; Shukman, 2012) and draws influence from the writings of Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger’s ‘The Question Concerning Technology’ (Heidegger, 1977). I will briefly describe two of my recent audiovisual installations: Natura naturans and Stars Beneath our Feet that incorporate sound as a means to create an embodied experience of the unseen organism. I then discuss my works-in-progress: Pithos and Velleity with(out) Volition, which explore the complex circularity of the relationship between humanity and technology in a biotechnological era.

Charlotte Bilby: Creative practice in the criminal justice system is often either linked to the role it has in the reduction of re-offending, or, less commonly, its use as art therapy. This session will look at the use of art, craft and creativity in the criminal justice system, where up to 75% of the population are reported to have at least one identifiable mental health issue, as a method of self-management, and as an expression of self-identity.

Prof Clark Lawlor: Framing Fashionable Disease. I will discuss the way in which fashionable disease is at least partly created by cultural/artistic factors, including literature, art and theatre, as well as other discourses (religion, gender, race) and medical theory. My central cases will be melancholia/depression and consumption/tuberculosis.

Prof Chris Dorsett: I would like to outline my contribution to a book project about material culture in art schools. I am writing about ‘stalled’ studio work as if it were the non-coding (junk) DNA of arts research. It may be that the inactive (unfinished, abandoned) core of creative practice has more explanatory force than the familiar tropes of professional productivity and critical reception. A key influence here is Terrance Deacon’s (2013) provocative thinking on ‘absential’ features in evolutionary theory. Consequently, my chapter will use theoretical conversations with geneticists to rethink the conclusions art school staff draw from poor room use by students and the non-compliance of certain studio experiments with ‘health and safety’ regulations.

Dr Catherine Bailey: From within Public Health services commissioning and provision, there seems to be a shift from ‘arts activities’ as part of ‘good occupation’ to a growing recognition of the fundamental role that the arts and cultural sector can play, in addressing some of the most challenging health and social barriers to living life to the full, at whatever age. To illustrate, this session draws on the evaluation findings of a falls and dance intervention, ‘Falling on your Feet’, for people 65 years and over, led by Helix Arts, NE England, with professional dancer, Nadia Ithkar and funded by the English NHS. Findings suggest that the benefits of participating regularly in dance can go way beyond reducing fear of falling and increasing social connection, to reinvigorating a sense of identity (not just an old body) and ownership of the self…..[before the dance], “I was sleep walking into old age”.

Places are limited so please register for this event by emailing Marianne Wilde.

Tuesday 28th June 2016 13.40 – 17.00
Northumbria University City Campus Boardroom 1 Sutherland Building

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