Art meets science at Regeneration: A Story Of Becoming

Michelle Marufu reflects on her experience at the Regeneration: A Story of Becoming exhibit.

It is rare that one thinks of science as a means of inspiration for art. This is a sweeping and likely untrue generalisation that I have made as a scientist who has never had a reason to think about art in much depth. My thought was that science is science and art is art, and they have no reason to have a conversation. However, when I attended the event ‘Regeneration: A Story Of Becoming’, at the MRC Centre For Regenerative Medicine,  I realised how my lack of appreciation for art has made my perspective on science far more dull than it need be.

The event was the dissertation project of Autumn Brown, who sought to inspire and curate an entire exhibition of works created by scientists who themselves wanted to communicate their stem cell research through art.

I was amazed to find that the research scientists who had attended workshops in glassworks and screen-printing created most of the pieces displayed. The glass pieces were particularly enjoyable. There was nothing amateur about them. Most things appeared like artistic interpretation as opposed to scientific images. Looking at them, I could not help but imagine how much fun it must have been for the long-time scientists to break the mould and have a go at making art with their hands.

Colour, form, texture, geometry, order, disorder and mostly importantly function; it all made me think that nature is in fact the greatest artist and designer.  And just like an artist, nature has a reason for every detail, and it is a scientist’s privilege not only to find the ‘how’ but also the ‘why.’ The answers are often uncovered by trying to view the spectacle as closely as possible, through microscopic vision, in order to deconstruct the phenomena stroke by stroke. But sometimes in science, as in art, the only thing hiding under a question is more questions.

This exhibition wasn’t just about art. It was also about science communication, so coming out of it a visitor was supposed to know more about stem cell research. Nine labels were present, and three labels in I already felt more comfortable in my understanding of what a stem cell does. There can be a lot of misperception and even anger by members of the general public when it comes to some science-related subjects like genetic modification and vaccination. But science communication can make most of us feel at ease with scientific progress. It was great to hear, from the head of science communication at the MRC centre, Dr. Robin Morton, that “there is a growing investment in science communication”. We already know that art and history are things that pique public interest, so maybe more events like ‘Regeneration: a story of becoming’, is just what we need to communicate facts about modern science.

And redacting my opening statement that scientists do not think about art, I heard that the MRC centre has an artist in residence, Hamer Dodds, who created the amazing piece you  notice when enter the reception area and look up.

If you are interested in knowing more about the fusion of art and science, check out ASCUS labs in Summerhall. They provided a lot of support to Autumn Brown as she started her triumphant project. Five out five stars.

Image: Dr. Robin Morton (care of Autumn Brown)

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