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Serving & connecting
Communication is something we tend to take for granted – but is central to our existence as human beings. We increasingly place greater emphasis on communicating visually through images in new media, but tend to forget the more haptic senses of hearing and touch.
Call and Response was a collaboration between artist Tabatha Andrews and development biologist Professor Andrea Streit exploring communication, identity and memory in relation to the sense of hearing and ear development. This involved researching the earliest manifestations of the senses through scientific research, sculpture, sound, drawing and workshop-based practice.
Mouse cochlea: sensory hair cells responsible for sound perception and modulation are stained in green; blue: cell nuclei
Culture is the matrix, or context in which stem cells - and humans - are nourished; if we alter this environment we can affect behaviour, altering identities and sense of self. Conversely, how can we ‘know’ or ‘understand’ a cell that is in vitro and out of context? The project team explored a state of in-betweenness and instability where the cell is neither itself nor ‘something else’, and where human perceptions of self and memories evolve through experience and time.
Inner ear of a whale, photographed by Tabatha Andrews
In the adult body, most cells are highly specialised – for example in the ear, special sensory cells are responsible for sound and balance perception and for transformation of information into electrical signals sent to the brain. Yet, during development, they come from precursors that have the potential to give rise to other cells in sense organs. The Streit lab investigates how and when cells ‘know who they are’, how constant cross talk between them influences this process and how they retain the memory of their identity – or whether this memory can be wiped out to bring them back to a ‘younger’ stage.
Listening Objects 2014 by Tabatha Andrews
Call and Response was a project as part of King's Arts in Dentistry Innovation Programme. The project was a collaboration between King's College London's Department of Craniofacial Development & Stem Cell Biology and Tabatha Andrews, brokered. It was supported by the university's Culture team.
Professor Andrea Streit - academic leadAndrea Streit is a leading scientist in ear developmental biology. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that define ear progenitors, and how this knowledge can be used for repair of degenerating cells in the damaged or ageing ear. She is Professor of Developmental Neurobiology in the Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology at King’s Dental Institute.
Tabatha Andrews - artistic leadTabatha Andrews has made award-winning work on the theme of memory and sensory perception, reordering the sensory hierarchy in order to create new and transformational experience. Her ground-breaking work ‘The Dispensary’ with Dementia patients at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, as well as previous projects exploring sensory deprivation, disorientation, communication, and acoustics, creates an exciting area of common ground with the Streit Lab.
Project workshops explored interference in human and cell communication, using physical movement, sound and gesture before moving to an exploration of drawing and sensory deprivation. Andrea and Tabatha then considered drawing as notation or score for developmental processes, with a view to developing their ideas about hearing, communication and memory through physical movement, model making and sound. Their research extended into pedagogy, philosophy, synaesthesia, and psychoacoustics.
Image taken from the first Call and Response workshop
Call and Response featured in the Heads up! exhibition in the Arcade at Bush House, 2 – 13 December 2019. The exhibition was the culmination of the Arts in Dentistry Innovation Programme and aimed to showcase how art-science collaborations can illuminate the lived experience of patients and clinicians, bring new perspectives to researchers, and offer innovative approaches to student education.
The project team also hosted Stillpoint, an immersive performance for an audience of one person, as part of the exhibition programme. The piece explored the choreography of listening: how we listen with the body and mind as well as the ears, and how we visualise space and texture through sound.
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