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THIS IS A VOICE at Wellcome Collection reviewed

16 Jun, 16 | by cquigley

L0081645 'His Masters Voice'. Painting by Franci

‘His Masters Voice’. Painting by Francis Barraud, 1919. Credit:Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust

 

THIS IS A VOICE

Wellcome Collection, 14 April – 31 July 2016

Reviewed by Steven Kenny

 

Approaching the exhibition entrance of THIS IS A VOICE at the Wellcome Collection, it is easy to think the voice is treated as criminal, being contained, controlled and its behaviour segregated from the world outside. Initial thoughts would suggest that it is being acoustically surveyed; with the steady opening and closing of the exhibition door, sound rushes to the exit. Yet its attempts are ultimately futile, the room has been sound proofed, noise restricted from accessing the outside world. On entering the space, grey triangular padded shapes line the walls, detail reminiscent of a kitsch science fiction film from the 1980s. The exposed patterned structures, evocative of the décor of Ridley Scott’s periled spaceship in Alien, enclose you in a warm, familiar hug of nostalgia. Sensing that this space is one visually tread before, it is easy to forget the prestigious institutional context of the exhibition. THIS IS A VOICE, a show investigating the potential of the voice in all its forms, techniques, objects and cultural baggage, is particularly engaging for it knowingly understands such a topic cannot be wholly represented (due to various cultural and language complexities). Yet it does a heartfelt job in attempting to at least understand how the voice as a product, both commercially and non-commercially viable, can be exhibited. Curatorial flourishes can be found everywhere, from the nooks and crannies of seated listening stations to the maze-like paths that allow a gentle flow of avid listeners from one space to the next. From attending numerous shows at the Wellcome Collection I must comment that THIS IS A VOICE is one of the most stimulating and generally refreshing exhibitions to be held in its space.

It would seem that an inner versus outer exploration of the body and the voice is focused on throughout. One telling example of this is immediately apparent in the work Circular Song, 1974 by Joan La Barbara. A half dome like structure hangs from the ceiling, the speaker’s hollow interior pervading the space below with sound. The experience of entering this wall of sound is generally unnerving, a constant and increasingly uncomfortable echo of inhaling and exhaling performed by the artist, breathes all over you. It is nightmarish, a deathly noise that would seem totally apt in the exhaling howls of a victim being chased by a stalker in a nerve inducing slasher film. Sound in this manner is represented as an abject substance, an uncanny emotional pulling of the visitors’ own sentiments to the body and the amplified vocalisation of a body process that now seems one of disgust. Yet this is in direct contrast to Marcus Coates multi-screen film installation Dawn Chorus, 2007, which is silly, funny and surprisingly touching. This room is filled with the fluttering sounds of birdsong, a number of monitors positioned at varying heights depicting subjects in everyday locations comically singing along to each sound created. Experiencing this work initially seemed deceptive­­–I could not understand how both image and sound aligned so perfectly, as though the birdsong was actually being produced by a human lip whistle. Subjects pursed their lips and jotted their heads up and down in perfect alignment. The façade is lifted on reading the work’s description: ‘After recording the dawn chorus with multiple microphones, the individual birdsongs were slowed down to last approximately 16 times as long, which enabled the participants to imitate them, while being filmed’. Yet not knowing these details did not matter as my imagination roamed freely around the space. I observed each subject as one would watch a bird in the wild, mesmerised by its harmonic whistle and merry bouncing of its head.

Words

THIS IS A VOICE at Wellcome Collection, 2016. Credit:Photography by Michael Bowles

Dotted around the exhibition are various textual works, the written word laid bare. Erik Bunger’s wall text I Hearby Command You to Give Voice to These Letters Silently or Out Loud, 2011 was surprising in that it forced an involuntary restriction of my own voice from permeating the gallery. I so badly wanted to shout out loud the words I was reading yet thought better than to add to the already noisy space. Yet on second thoughts maybe that would have made for some interesting spectator reactions. Bunger’s playful register, was paralleled by Mikhail Karikis’s digital prints (photographs by Thierry Bal) Sculpting Voice, 2010, where the artist was photographically recorded pulling various facial gestures. Three prints line the wall in sequence, each exhibiting Karikis’s comically retuned face, made even more comical by the muting of what would probably have been quite a painful or otherwise loud projection of sound.

L0081817 THIS IS A VOICE at Wellcome Collection, p

THIS IS A VOICE at Wellcome Collection. Credit:Photography by Michael Bowles

 

The exhibition saved its loudest and most intriguing work for last. Entering the final room of the show, you would think that you might have woken in a Lynchian nightmare. Best described as an interactive, participatory constructed, sound installation, a lone and somewhat foredooming sound booth, tempts the spectator.

L0081800 Matthew Herbert, Chorus, 2016

Matthew Herbert, Chorus, 2016. Credit:Photography by Michael Bowles

The aptly titled Chorus, 2016 is by the British electronic musician Matthew Herbert, whose work ‘asks visitors to sing a single note within a professional recording booth following a set of instructions. The visitor’s voices are then automatically added to a chorus of voices, including performers and staff from the Royal Opera House, forming an ever-expanding sound installation that plays in the exhibition space and at the Royal Opera House’s Stage Door in Covent Garden’. I entered the space to sing the requested solitary note. Escaping my throat, my voice joined the squeaks, squeals, and sometimes correctly pitched notes above. Noise reverberated violently throughout the room, puncturing the space like a diminished fifth encroaching a melodic passage. The voice in this exhibition is presented as an ever-changing entity, one that is able to attack, calm and arrest.

 

Articles from Medical Humanities on the human voice:

Kelly BD. Searching for the patient’s voice in the Irish asylums. Med Humanit 2016;42:87-91.

Demjén Z and Semino E. Henry’s voices: the representation of auditory verbal hallucinations in an autobiographical narrative. Med Humanities 2015;41:1 5762.

Puustinen R. Voices to be heard—the many positions of a physician in Anton Chekhov’s short story, A Case History. Med Humanities 2000;26:1 3742.

 

Encountering Pain: hearing, seeing, speaking – Call for Abstracts

15 Mar, 16 | by cquigley

 

Encountering Pain: hearing, seeing, speaking

 

A free two-day live event and international conference at UCL

Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd July 2016

Pain is not only expressed linguistically but through bodily movements, emotional reactions, and artistic expressions.

How do we respond when we encounter the pain of another? What happens when our own bodies encounter pain?  What tools do we possess when attempting to communicate pain and are there forms other than language for expressing it?

During these two days, we will explore a range of international and interdisciplinary approaches that can help us better understand encounters with pain both within and beyond the clinic. This event is aimed at those: living with pain, caring for someone in pain, treating or researching pain,  artists whose work touches on pain and others exploring alternative means of communicating and assessing pain.

The event will divert radically from the traditional academic conference format to encourage exchange between different groups affected by pain.

Call for Abstracts

Deadline 18th March 2016

Abstracts are invited from individuals or groups responding to the general theme of communicating and/or encountering pain. These may be conventional conference presentations and posters, visual arts or interactive sessions.

While particularly encouraging papers reporting research findings we also welcome those exploring innovative practices at the interface of the humanities, art and medicine.

Papers are invited (but not limited to) the following themes:

  • pain encounters within any healthcare context
  • pain encounters within alternative settings
  • pain encounters within a range of cultural contexts (for example explorations of how different cultures and people in different times attempt to make sense of human and animal suffering)
  • current and historical visualisations of pain
  • the value of the arts to democratizing medicine and breaking down existing hierarchies
  • assessing pain by non-conventional methods
  • alternative ways of recording and reporting pain narratives
  • the implications of patient pain narratives for other areas of medicine such as psychiatry and neurology
  • neural mechanisms for pain
  • pain as emotion
  • pain as identity
  • the meaning of pain and its lived experience, in the past and present

Please send a submission of no more than one page of A4, which you are free to use in any way you wish. Guidelines for submissions can be found under the Conference Deadlines tab, however for scientific abstracts (only) please follow the conventional format: Title, Background, Aims, Method, Results, and Conclusion. Conflict of Interest: Authors must declare any financial support received or any conflict of interests on their abstract.

Abstracts must be no longer than one A4 page, font no smaller than 11 pt.

Please send to encountering-pain@ucl.ac.uk by 18th March 2016.

Please include an email address.

Successful applicants will be notified by 18th April 2016.

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/encountering-pain/abstracts

For more information on the research projects that gave rise to this event, please see the links below.

www.ucl.ac.uk/slade/research/projects/pain-speaking-the-threshold

Khalid Ali: London Human Rights Watch Film Festival 9-18 March 2016

7 Mar, 16 | by Ayesha Ahmad

London Human Rights Watch Film Festival

https://ff.hrw.org/london, 9-18 March 2016

Various venues across London

Over a period of 10 days, London will host the ‘Human Rights Watch Film Festival’ showing 20 feature and documentary films. The opening night will screen ‘Hooligan sparrow’, a documentary in Southern China following a group of activists campaigning to unravel the truth behind the rape of a group of young school girls. ‘Mustang’ the closing night film from Turkey tells a story of five sisters fighting their family and community to have control over their education and choice of future husbands. Women as fighters for political reform in the Arab world feature in the documentary ‘The trials of Spring shorts’.

 

BMJ

 

‘Hooligan sparrow’ opening the London Human Rights Watch Film Festival, 10 March 2016

The history of gay rights in different parts of the world are seen in: ‘Larry Kramer in love and anger’ which chronicles his fights as a novelist and activist to push the AIDS agenda into public health policy in the USA, and ‘Inside the Chinese closet’ which portrays real stories of fake marriages between gay men and lesbian women trying to conform to their community’s social and religious rules that do not tolerate homosexuality.

The plight of international refugees is seen in ‘Mediterranea’, ‘Desperate journey’, ‘If the dead could speak’, ‘At home in the world’ and ‘The crossing’; telling heart-breaking real and fictionalised accounts of violations of humanity towards asylum seekers from Burkina Faso, Syria, Somalia, Eretria and Iraq.

If you are interested in films focusing on Palestinian/ Israeli issues, you might want to watch; ‘P. S. Jerusalem’ about a family trying to start their life in Jerusalem, or ‘The idol’ a fictionalised account of the story of Mohammad Assaf, Palestinian winner of ‘Arab Idol’ TV music competition.

British conflicts between the residents of Tottenham, London and the Metropolitan Police that followed the killing of Mark Duggan in 2011 are analysed in ‘The hard stop’.

The rise of fundamentalism is uncovered in ‘Among the believers’ a documentary filmed in a school in the Red Mosque in Pakistan.

Most of the films screening will be followed by Q and A discussion with the film-makers.

 

 

 

Related reviews

http://blogs.bmj.com/medical-humanities/2015/05/26/khalid-ali-fil-review-mediterranea/

 

Address for correspondence

Dr Khalid Ali, Screening Room editor

Khalid.ali@bsuh.nhs.uk

 

 

 

 

Take Me With You: the Museum of Friendship, Remembrance and Loss

8 Feb, 16 | by cquigley

 

Take Me With You: the Museum of Friendship, Remembrance and Loss

6.00-8.30 pm, Thursday 18 February 2016 at the Chowen Lecture Theatre, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Falmer Campus BN1 9PX

Museum open from 6.00 pm

Clare Best and Tim Andrews in conversation (+q&a) 6.30-7.30 pm

Drinks reception from 7.30 pm

Museum open until 8.30 pm

 

From Clare Best’s blog:

‘Here is what I wrote in my journal after Tim and I first met in a café in Brighton in January 2013:

Met Tim Andrews in Brighton 16 Jan. Thought on train on way home about some kind of flexible/low-maintenance start to a collaboration. Thought more overnight.

‘Take me with you’ – this is the phrase that kept coming to me in the night. It has connotations of journey, of packing, of accompaniment, of company, of gathering in, of sharing.

I see it perhaps for now as making ‘swaps’ by email of what each of us would take with us to the next world, if we could, if there is one… Things/ideas we hold dear. Then each of us interprets or responds to each other’s chosen thing. And so on.

The items sent might be very fragmentary and abstract. They could be anything: a line from a song, a particular person’s smile, a food, a mood, a book, a film, a favourite walk, a memory, etc etc – it could be literally anything.

So we’d build up a collage, a narrative. And each time we corresponded we’d know each other better, so we would construct a kind of overlapping journal, or a conversation, through what we’d choose and send each other.

And here we are, three years later, with a robust friendship and about 50,000 words written, quite literally, between us – and all kinds of things we’d like to show you.

It’s been a stimulating journey, full of laughter and tears and adventure and tea and cake, and we look forward to sharing it at BSMS on 18 February.

The event is free, but if you’re coming along please register in advance here.

Tim has produced a trailer and has blogged about the project.’

 

The Annual Sowerby Lecture in Philosophy and Medicine

26 Nov, 15 | by cquigley

 

“If I had to live like you, I think I’d kill myself”: Explaining the Disability Paradox

Havi Carel, Professor of Philosophy and Head of Subject, University of Bristol

Comment: Brian Hurwitz, Professor of Medicine and the Arts, King’s College London

 

Thursday, November 26, 2015.

18.30-20.00

Guy’s Campus, New Hunts House, Theatre 1

 

Free, no booking is required

 

Abstract:

“The ‘disability paradox’ identifies a significant difference in how ill and disabled people rate their wellbeing, compared with healthy people asked to imagine how happy they would be if they were unwell. Ill and disabled people’s wellbeing rating is only slightly lower than that of healthy people. However, healthy people rate their hypothetical wellbeing as much lower when asked to imagine themselves as ‘hypothetical patients’. There are three possible explanations: either patients misreport their wellbeing due to adaptation, or healthy people mis-imagine ill-health, or both.

In this paper I examine these explanations and suggest that it is healthy people who misimagine ill-health. I also claim that it is impossible to claim that ill people are misreporting their wellbeing due to adaptaion without this having general consequences for any subjective wellbeing measurements. I also claim that the phenomenon of adaptation to illness raises important questions for health economics, and that the psycho-social mechanisms involved in adaptation can be illuminated by a phenomenological analysis.”

 

The Reading Room: The Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group

19 May, 15 | by cquigley

 

The Birkbeck Medical Humanities reading group aims to create a space in which academics, clinicians and students can come together to explore key readings, ideas and materials in the field of medical humanities. Our endeavour is to find ways of talking across the different disciplines of the humanities and medicine, and we welcome participation from colleagues interested and engaged in these areas.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, 27 May 2015, where we will continue to explore the theme of narrativity in the medical humanities, with a special focus on verbalising illness.

We will meet in the Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square, between 3.30-5pm. 

Set texts:

  • Lucy Bending, ‘Approximation, Suggestion, and Analogy: Translating Pain into Language’, The Yearbook of English Studies, 36:1, Translation  (2006), 131-137
    Stable URL:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3508741
  • Joanna Bourke, ‘Metaphor’, in The Story of Pain: From Pain to Painkillers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Extracts from Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain, trans. By Juilan Barnes (New York, 2002)
  • Extracts from Eula Bliss, On Immunity: An Inoculation (2014)

For further details, and copies of the set texts, please contact Heather Tilley, h.tilley@bbk.ac.uk.

Colleagues may also be interested in listening to this Radio 4 programme on the Language of Pain, aired on 2 May, on the BBC iPlayer (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05spk3q) (blurb below).


Virginia Woolf claimed that English has no words to express what it feels like to be in pain. Professor Joanna Bourke from the Birkbeck Pain Project sets out to challenge this notion, exploring archives from the last two centuries to illustrate the rich metaphorical language people have used to express pain, and demonstrate why doctors need to pay attention to what their patients say. This one-hour programme includes contributions from social, cultural and music historians Dr Louise Hide, Dr Lucy Bending, Dr Simon Heighes, Professor Javier Moscoso and Dr Ana Carden-Coyne, as well as pain clinicians Professor Rita Charon and Dr Joanna Zakrzewska, and artist Dr Deborah Padfield. It has been produced by Isabel Sutton for Just Radio.

Next Reading Group

Our last meeting of the term will be held on Wednesday 24 June, 3.30-5.00 (again in the Keynes library), and will focus on graphic medicine, with selections from Ian Williams, Daryl Cunningham, and some short animated videos.

More information on the group is available on our webpage, along with details of past reading.

Jo Winning (Director), Heather Tilley and Suzannah Biernoff.

 

Deborah Bowman in conversation with Leslie Jamison, author of ‘The Empathy Exams’

22 Jun, 14 | by Deborah Bowman

 

 

Join the Editor of Medical Humanities, Deborah Bowman, in conversation with Leslie Jamison as they discuss her acclaimed essay collection ‘The Empathy Exams’ and more. Leslie’s work questions how we understand each other and the concept of empathy, drawing on her time as an actor working with medical students and her own experiences of illness and vulnerability. It promises to be a fascinating evening and a rare opportunity to meet an author described by the New York Times as ‘extraordinary’.

This is a free public event, open to all and part of the St George’s, University of London series The Art of Medicine.

Details:

Date: Monday 7th July at 5.30 p.m.

Venue: Boardroom H2.5 Hunter Wing
St George’s, University of London Cranmer Terrace,
London SW17 0RE

Register via e-mail: events@sgul.ac.uk

Hope to see you there.

 

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