Mind Over Matter

The Wellcome Collection in London has recently opened Brains: The Mind as Matter, a fascinating and informative show that explores what humans have done to brains in the name of medical intervention, scientific enquiry, cultural meaning and technological change.

The result is a series of rooms filled with representations of brains, as well as real brains in all their possible states and guises: measured, galvanized, dessicated, modelled, sliced, freeze-dried, diced, scanned, pickled. I’ll be sure to share the gore with you in a future post.

0aa5-headrestnk-copy.jpgAnia Dabrowska, After I’m Gone series: Headrest, 2011

Exhibitions at the Wellcome Collections often incorporate a few artworks among the historical facts, stories, videos and objects. The latter are usually so compelling that i hardly pay any attention to the art pieces. That would have happened this time too were it not for Mind Over Matter, a collaboration for which artist Ania Dabrowska and social scientist Dr Bronwyn Parry have given a visibility to the medical research on dementia.

Finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s entails undertaking research on human brain tissue drawn from people who were affected by dementia and people who were not. Mind Over Matter demystifies what happens behind the doors of brain bank laboratories, and in so doing actively seeks to rehabilitate, even celebrate, the practice of bodily donation in the public imagination.

The exhibition at Wellcome only features a segment of the whole project. Namely, a the portraits and stories of people who contribute to the research against dementia by choosing to donate their brain as well as a series of photos taken at the Brain Bank Laboratory, The Cambridge University Hospital. Hygienic and crude, the lab images unveil what happens to the brain after the donors’ death.

0aaadabrowska-albert-web-copy.jpgAnia Dabrowska, Brain Donors series: Mr Albert Webb

0a-ania-dabrowska-edie-final.jpgAnia Dabrowska, Brain Donors series: Eddie Holden

0a-fresh-brain-brain-lab.jpgAnia Dabrowska, After I’m Gone series: Fresh Brain, 2011

0a-ustenslmortuary-7a-brain-bank.jpgAnia Dabrowska, After I’m Gone series: Ustensils, 2011

Brains: The Mind as Matter remains on show at Wellcome Collection in London until 17 June.