Science Writing Prize 2013: The shortlist

Wellcome Trust Blog

Science Writing Prize 2013: The shortlistLooking for some holiday reading? We’ve got the answer. Join us on a journey through neuroscience, space, life and death, humour, sadness and sound with the winners, highly commended, and shortlisted entries to the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2013 in association with the Guardian and the Observer.

The judging team read almost 600 entries and finally whittled them down to two winners (Katherine Wright in the professional scientist category and Patrick Russell in the general category) who each won £1000 and saw their work edited and published in the Observer and the Guardian respectively. Highly commended entries from Laura Dawes and Josh Davis appeared here, on the Wellcome Trust blog, but we were so impressed with the quality of entries that we wanted to share even more with you. The entire shortlist has been edited, and you can read all 19 pieces in one booklet, available to download as…

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Collect, Exchange, Display: Artistic Practice and the Medical Museum (CFP, Conference, London, 6 June 2014)

I need to speak to Rachael Allen about this…. we should definitely go, anyone else going?

Centre for Medical Humanities Blog

CFP: Collect, Exchange, Display: Artistic Practice and the Medical Museum (London, 6 June 2014)
For hundreds of years, medical collections have been sites of medical and artistic exchange. Not only were many of their contents created by artists and physicians, but the collections were also often compiled by doctors, who were themselves artistes manqués. Although medical museums have recently received attention in museological and historical studies, they remain relatively ignored within art historical scholarship.
This one-day conference will look at the anatomical, pathological or medical museum from the perspectives of art history and visual culture. Artists have utilised these spaces for the study of anatomy and pathology–as well as for ideas and inspiration–but what do we know about the artists, photographers and craftsmen and women who have worked within the museum? How can we theorise the collecting practices of the doctors who founded and/or ran these museums? What influence…

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Curiouser and Curiouser – Jan Sopher

Curiouser and Curiouser - Jan Sopher

Some words by Jan Sopher regarding her artwork ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’
I have attached the image of the metronome box and this is what inspired the work:
Prof. Walker (Newcastle) gave a talk on African people with Parkinson’s disease and showed a short film on how the metronome was used as a cue to help these suffers to move more easily. It was like magic to me.
I had long been a fan of the surrealist Joseph Cornell, and his intriguing boxes.
The watch and leaves referred to the shortness of time, the window is a little hope for the future and the small bottle a reference to the drugs, which are only partially effective when used with the spoon with holes in. These items then seemed to have a strong connection to Alice in Wonderland also a surreal and dream related book. On visiting MoMA I discovered yet another link to the work by Man Ray, a Metronome (in fact the exact same model) this work also had an eye drawing attached. So I felt these things all were saying the same message: how strange this disease we share and how surreal it is.
Jan Sopher

From Me:

I was lucky enough to attend a creative writing workshop at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle run by Sue Spencer and Sheree Mack exploring the BrainBox exhibition that Jan Sopher had curated for the Lit and Phil (see previous post.)

This particular work by Jan inspired me to write a poem which I’ve posted below:

I Fall Forwards (after Curiouser and Curiouser by Jan Sopher)

Feel the weight of the silver sugar spoon
my father gave to me as a gift.
How ironic
these hands will not stop shaking.

Hear the beat of the mahogany metronome
that sits on the old piano.
Marked time
in the absence of the pendulum swing of my limbs.

Taste the drugs they dole out like gifts
in days-of-the-week boxes.
Bitter pills
I cannot swallow past the lump in my throat.

Smell the decay that settles on my shoulders,
dust gathering as I wait.
White box
grey matter; shrinking away from life.

See the ancient pocket watch stopped inside
a large dome of glass.
Leaves drop
from the trees outside my window,
as I fall forwards and the world spins by.

(Copyright Eliot North 2013)

The artwork struck me in many ways, not only because of my experience of Parkinson’s in terms of talking to patients as a GP but also certain elements inside this piece struck a personal note.
A silver sugar spoon just like the one in ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ my father actually gave to me as a gift a few years ago. As a family we always celebrated pancake day the traditional way with sugar and lemon and in the past always used a silver sugar spoon with holes in to shake the sugar over the pancakes. Also the metronome is exactly like the one we used to have on our piano that I remember from my childhood when taking piano lessons and practising at home.
The senses represented by the eye, ear and mouth struck me as well as the surrealist elements to the piece. I am a huge fan of surrealist art and literature… Magritte, Man Ray and Dali as well as Lewis Carroll, particularly Alice in Wonderland of course. I have now explored Joseph Cornell’s work thanks to Jan!

I was trying to capture something of the surreal in the poem, each stanza exploring a sense and trying to capture something of what it might feel like to have Parkinson’s Disease.

Great thanks to Jan Sopher for the image used here and the inspiration.