We began as part of the body


We began as part of the body is a mixed reality artwork and series of research artworks inspired the eczema genetic research laboratory of Professor Sara Brown, (University of Dundee) where Beverley undertook an artist residency in 2017 organised by ASCUS Art & Science. The residency involved spend time observing the activities of the lab and the organotypic artificial skin cells, which are both real and synthetic. Taken from an actual person (via tummy tucks, breast surgery, etc), the cells are processed and maintained outside of the body. Genes are changed, tweaked, to create eczema skin. Almost indescribably similar and different from the cells that exist within our actual body.

Beverley created a series of experimental artworks in response: a 6mins spoken word sound piece written in response to interviews with the lab staff, 3D prints of organotypic, artificially cultivated skin cells enlarged to 2000 times larger than life and 360 degrees photography of the lab. The script for the sound piece, written from the point of view of the artificial skill cells, leads the audience through the cells journey, during their short, precious, three weeks long 'in-vitro' life, from operating theatre to lab, and finally to disposal.

The artworks have been shown in international exhibitions and events including Beyond Skin at the LifeSpace: Science Art Research Gallery, University of Dundee and Slessor Gardens, Dundee (2017), Fieldworks: Arts & Ethics Research Group’ at Berlin Blue Gallery, Germany (2017), Materiality at Tent Gallery, Edinburgh (2018), V&A Digital Futures 2018 as part of EVA London 2018, and at xCoAx 2018, at the Museo del Traje, Madrid, Spain. An Atopic Art Art-Science Workshop was led by Beverley and Professor Sara Brown at the ASCUS lab, Summerhall in April 2017, as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival. Lectures about the work have been given as part of the Mason Institute Lecture Series (2018), the ArcInTex Research Network (2018), RAI 2018 - Art, Materiality and Representation at the British Museum and at the European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2019.

The artworks became a library of materials, an initial stage towards creating a mixed reality experience. Added to by LIDAR scans of the ASCUS Lab, at Summerhall, Edinburgh, the project materials are combined to present audiences with an immersive encounter with the artificial cell cultures and their lived, disembodied experience. The artwork will overlap the digitally captured lab and artificial skin cells, with the physical 3D printed objects, narrated by the skin cells.


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Photography by Erika Stevenson & Beverley Hood