Saturday, 18 August 2007

Moving on

At this point we leave the beating heart thumping gently and ascend a metal spiral staircase to the next exhibition called Medicine Now. (I forgot to mention that all this is free to Joe public.) This exhibition contains human remains but it's nothing to worry about because when you see this exhibit it doesn't look like something you'd have a conversation with, or for that matter, share a cup of tea with - it just looks like a scientific illustration that just happens to be human shaped.

The human body, rather than medical implements, is at the heart (pardon the pun) of this exhibition. Near the entrance is a large transparent perspex model of a body with all the internal organs on display neatly decked out in different colours. There are labelled buttons on a board in front of this object and when you press, say 'Spleen' a little object lights up so you can see where it is in relation to 'Liver' or 'Lung' or 'Small intestine' which looked enormous to me and I could have spent quite a long time playing with this but my attention was diverted by a television screen. Here I was able to watch excerpts from programmes, dating from the 1960s up to the present day, about attitudes to medical problems. It began with a patronising discussion about children with Downs Syndrome which I found shocking and then covered all sorts of other things including, I think, cloning and Dollie the sheep.

When I felt in need of a sit down I plonked myself on a Sound Chair. When you do this a recording starts and I listened to one on malaria and another on obesity. Fortunately they also provide a written transcript of the text in case you can't hear everything. Following this I voluntarily stood in front of a camera which photographed my face and compared it with the previous 50 faces it had shot. Then the image of my face was distorted to make it fit the 'average' face and I looked even weirder than I normally do.

At one end of this exhibition there is a browsing area including something they call the Forum. This isn't a market place where people set the world to rights but a wall displaying visitors artwork. You are invited to choose a word or two printed on the back of a large card then turn the card over and write and draw about those words. I chose the word 'fever' and produced something that was fantastically dull but, unlike mine, a lot of the cards on display were really interesting and witty.

There were also plenty of pieces of artwork that artists had made in response to all things medical including a large, subtle piece that could have been mistaken for an embroidery but on closer inspection it became clear that it had been made from over-the-counter drugs and carved into the shapes of the parts of the body that particular pill was intended to help. Next to this was one of my favourite parts of the exhibition. You have to listen to it on headphones and it was a couple of minutes from a comedy sketch by a comedian who has MS and he was describing his neighbours reaction to his walking stick - it was very funny and I would like to have heard the whole thing.

More later ...

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