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It really was beautiful series

Mind Over Matter is a science - art collaboration between
Dr Bronwyn Parry, Queen Mary University of London and artist, Ania Dabrowska about dementia and the contribution that a unique cadre of twelve brain donors, aged between 84 and over 100, will make to finding a cure for this devastating disease in the 21st century.


Dementia, which literally means ‘without mind’, affects cognition and can cause dysfunction of memory, attention, language or problem solving, in many cases leading to a total disorientation in time (not knowing what day of the week, month, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they or others around them are). Understanding the scientific basis of this disease entails undertaking research on human brain tissue drawn from people who were affected by dementia and people who were not, at a time when the practice of retaining bodily parts for medical research has been rendered abject through past cases of unethical practice and adverse media attention. 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.


Working through issues relating to autonomy, the legacy of gifting, and the brave new world of biological re-modelling, the Mind Over Matter exhibition and publication draw back the veil of secrecy that has historically surrounded the practice of bodily donation, to reveal the selfless generosity and courage of individuals who have elected to donate their brains after death for neuroscientific research. The authors of the project were privileged to meet some of Britain’s oldest prospective brain donors from CC75C and CFAS studies in Cambridge, who agreed to be photographed and interviewed about their lives and involvement in brain research. For these donors death proves not to be the end of life for their brains, but rather a mere stopping off point in a journey that sees them travel out and beyond their bodily lives to the global research laboratories of the future.


Drawing on themes of memory, death, the transience of the body and ageing, the artist creates the labyrinth-like exhibition site to evoke a phenomenological experience of what it might feel like to lose one’s memory. Ania Dabrowska interweaves photographic portraits, appropriated archival and medical photographs, projections, sound narratives and scientific artifacts to present a layered contemplation about the nature of memory loss, and to trace the new lives that the brains take on after the donors’ death.

Visual representation of organ donors is unprecedented in the UK and the project is groundbreaking in de-anonymising these donors. In reflecting on why bodily donation has always been a strictly anonymous activity, the authors explore what the ethical, psychological, religious and social implications are for donors, their families and researchers in re-negotiating the historical relationship between anonymity, objectivity and the impartiality of science. As some of the donors who participated in Mind Over Matter have now passed away, the project provides a unique record of their philosophies on life, the relationship between memory and identity, death, donation and the ephemerality of the body.

Acknowledgements

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AUTHORS
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Ania Dabrowska, Artist; Dr Bronwyn Parry, Queen Mary, University of London

FUNDER
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The Wellcome Trust, People Award

COMPOSER AND SOUND DESIGNER
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Gaetano Serra

PUBLISHERS, GRAPHIC AND WEB DESIGN
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Practice + Theory

PRESS
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Jen Middleton, Wellcome Trust

RESEARCH COLLABORATORS
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Professor Carol Brayne, Linda Barnes, Dr Jane Fleming, Sally Hunter and Jenny Sparrow for the Medical Research Council – Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS 1 and 2) and Cambridge City over-75s Cohort study (CC75C), The Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge;

Professor Peter Collins, Rob Fincham, Beverley Haynes, Rick Hills and Angela O’Sullivan for the Cambridge Brain Bank Laboratory, Human Research Tissue Bank, Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO
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Participating donors and their families: Mrs Brenda Buck, Prof. Frank Walbank, Mrs Ivy Pettifor, Mr Leslie Whitfield, Mr Eddie Holden, Mr Eric Stannard, Mr Albert Webb, Mrs Beryl Foreman, Mrs Betty Munns, Mrs Lucy Ridsdale, Mrs Ella Wiltshire, and Mrs Irene Overton.
School of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, in particular
Dr Marta Timoncini, Head of Administration

And grateful acknowledgements to: All the past as well as present research teams, co-investigators, primary care partners, laboratory staff and most especially the study participants and their families for their contribution to the MRC CFAS, CC75C studies and funders.

School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London, in particular Dr Marta Timoncini, Head of Administration

 

EXHIBITION TEAM AT SHOREDITCH TOWN HALL, LONDON
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Artworks printing and framing: Genesis Imaging, with special thanks to Mark Foxwell

Exhibition Production
Management: Emer Grant

Art Technicians and Installation Team: Peter Ainsworth, Anastasia Gereluk, James Murison, Rodrigo Orrantia, Helen Rawling, Fiona Rourke, Jack Lansley

Invigilators: Jack Lansley, Olivia Ball, Fiona Rourke, Sylvie Castairs, Ewelina Biadala

Installation and Private View documentation: Jaime Leme, Diab Alkarssifi

Sound Mixing: Nick Ryan

Lighting Design: Ash Events

Sound Equipment: Metro Broadcast

Drinks and Canapes: Baltic Restaurant, with special thanks to John Woroniecki

Driver: Lukasz Kusy

Project Funder

wellcome trust

WELLCOME TRUST, People Award
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www.wellcome.ac.uk

 

 

Additional Funders and Sponsors

 

Queen Mary University

QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY
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www.qmulac.uk

Cambridge University

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
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www.cam.ac.uk

Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS 1 and 2)
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www.cfas.ac.uk

Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study (CC75C)
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www.cc75c.group.cam.ac.uk

Medical Research Council

The Medical Research Council
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www.mrc.ac.uk

Baltic Restaurant

BALTIC
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www.balticrestaurant.co.uk

Genesis Imaging

GENESIS IMAGING
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www.genesisimaging.co.uk

Metro Braodcast

METRO BROADCAST
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www.www.metrobroadcast.com