Parallel practices is a project that has been running art residencies since its initiation in 2014 and aims to demonstrate the mutual benefits and value of collaboration between medical and/or scientific academics and makers. The project forms one part of the Crafts Council's Innovation strand and is supported by the university's Culture team.
The 2014 pilot project consisted of four collaborations, with each lasting four months and involving a team of at least one maker and one medical and scientific academic. These pairings stimulated learning and innovation through a focus on the body, materials and processes.
One of the four partnerships was between textile maker Celia Pym and Richard Wingate, Head of Anatomy at King’s. The project, titled Mending and anatomy, questioned the qualities of haptic experiences evoked through touch, the feelings of care and the patterns of wear in material through the intersection of anatomy studies and textiles.
Celia's project explored ‘mending’ in the study of anatomy and the relationships between care and caretaking in textile repair and studying anatomy. The project was the first time an artist in residence project was set up in the Dissecting Room (DR), and this enabled the Department's students and staff to establish new relationships with the equipment and materials, exploring a range of new creative possibilities that were more immediate and engaged with the learning environment.
Two ‘mending stations’ were set up for the project, one in the Dissecting Room and the other in the Life Sciences Annex of the Gordon Museum of Pathology. The ‘mending station’ set ups were informal and open to all students, staff and other visitors. Participants were invited to bring damaged garments to consult about mending them and materials were available for participants to practice darning and sewing skills.
In between the mending and the studying there were conversations about the generosity of donors and their families to give their bodies, exploring subjects such as gifts in general, taking time to care for things, how amazing the body is, how strong the smell in the DR is, becoming doctors, becoming surgeons, feeling queasy, being gentle and other matters related to the project. The project aimed to add to the academic and cultural practice of ‘anatomy as craft’ and to develop understanding of textile skills, darning and mending in particular, as a process for storytelling and connecting people, while at the same time making a visible mark for their stories in the garments. This project linked up sensitivity in repair, through darning and mending, with the sensitive ways medical students learn about anatomy and caring for bodies.
Celia worked at the mending desk Mondays and Wednesdays from September to December 2014 and established a presence in the Dissecting Room. Regarding the project, Celia commented: 'dissection of human cadaveric material has much broader educational outcomes than learning structure. Medical students see dissection as a rite of passage that is intimately linked with negotiating death as both apprehension and desensitization. “Mending” this process is an important but poorly investigated aspect of dissection. In textiles darning is the fixing of holes, it presents histories of objects and stories about owners.'
Celia Pym has a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies, specialising in sculpture, from Harvard University, USA and an MA in Constructed Textiles from the Royal College of Art, London.
Celia is an artist who works with knitting and embroidery. She teaches art part-time in London secondary schools and works for ReachOutRCA at the Royal College of Art. Exhibitions include: 2000 Years of Sculpture, Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, USA, 2008; Knitnic, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway, 2007; Between, August Art, London, 2006; Knit 2 Together, Crafts Council, London, 2005