Coming of Age
CONTEXT The Institute of Ageing at Newcastle University is a world class centre for research of the eﬀects of ageing and related health issues in humans. Newcastle University launched a series of annual programmes around research themes that address key societal issues – the ﬁrst of these, led by the University’s Institute for Ageing and Health (IAH), addressed the impact of population ageing on 21st-‐century life. This was called the multi-disciplinary Changing Age cultural programme. Thanks both to past successes in increasing life expectancy, and ongoing research dedicated to helping more people enjoy a healthy and meaningful old age, older age groups are the fastest growing sector of the population. Life expectancy is currently increasing by over two years with each decade that passes: an increase of around 5 hours each day. This is a result of huge successes in a range of human endeavour, but with this achievement come new challenges for the whole of society in particular negative attitudes about ageing. Coming of Age (part of the Changing Age programme) was a visual arts exhibition which explored aspects of ageing research such as how and why we age, the rise of age-‐related medicalconditions, and the creativity and vitality of older people. Central to the exhibition was a new body of artworks produced by Andrew Carnie, Annie Cattrell and Jennie Pedley, created following interactions with Professor Tom Kirkwood and scientists and clinicians at Newcastle University’s world-‐leading Institue for Ageing and Health. Funding was successfully sourced from the Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England and Northern Rock to contribute towards the exhibition costs Thousands of visitors saw the exhibition and also signed the Charter for Ageing which was also on display during Coming of Age. RESEARCH This research and the exhibition ‘Coming of Age’ investigated, and challenged the pre-conceptions, key societal issues, and prejudices around ageing. Cattrell worked closely with the multi-disciplinary research team at the Institute of Ageing, Newcastle University. Her two artworks ‘Memory’ (1 & 11), and ‘Parting’ (1 & 11) reflected her on going investigation into combining the empirical and poetic, in art and science, through sculpture and drawing. ‘Memory’ (1 & 11) were made as a result of dialogues with scientists and nursing staff, centering around the three dimensional anatomy, and locus, of the Hippocampus and Amygdala, as seen in autopsies and in MRI/CT scanning techniques. Both form part of the Limbic system, a set of structures that support the functions of emotion and memory. The Latin translation of Limbic is a border or edge. The Hippocampus can be damaged as a result of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, and so this small section of the brain is crucial to the overall well being of the affected person. Some of the symptoms of this damage can be loss of memory, and disorientation in the patient’s behaviour. Cattrell used three dimensional anatomical data derived from within the living brain, outer scans of the surface of the brain and skull to reveal the shape, orientation and volumes of these crucial physiological areas. Memory could be described as essentially a reaction of our perception of an event, situation, etc., and it recreates that event from our own personal perspective. Therefore memory is in effect who we are, and what we physiologically have become through our life time. The neural matter within the brain creates ‘pathways’ of memory, the stronger the memory the more substantial the network becomes. ‘Memory’ (1 & 11) was cast in a solid aggregate that resembles onyx. The protoyped Hippocampus/Amygdala was surfaced with pure silver, which reflected light and what ever is around it, therefore eluding to its function of memory. ‘Parting’ (1 &11) was two reverse drawings of the back of the head, and hair parting of a man and a woman, using silver leaf which had been applied to glass. The silver parted hair focussed upon issues of loss of colour pigmentation, and facial identity. These drawings were made in responses to scientific, sociological studies, and issues raised during her discussions with the staff at the Institute of Ageing and Health. The ‘Coming of Age’ exhibition was first shown in 2011 at the Hancock Museum,in Newcastle, and subsequently in 2012 at GVart in London. The exhibition included historical and contemporary artworks by: Henry Moore, Nicholas Nixon, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Magi Hambling, Susan Hiller, Melanie Manchot, John Caplans, Jordan Baseman, Andrew Carnie, Jennie Pedley and Susan Aldsworth.
Research Group:Fine Art Practices
- School of Arts