Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Artist to Portray Cancer in a New Way

An artist at the University of Hertfordshire is developing a large scale artwork to portray cancer to educate people about the disease.

An interview about this can be seen on You Tube launched this week.


Simeon Nelson, Professor of Sculpture at the University has received a £30,000 Wellcome Trust grant to create an artwork on cancer as a complex system at the new UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre, London. The work will be exhibited, included in a book and form part of a symposium once the project ends in April 2012.

As an artist who works with ideas from complexity theory, cybernetics and the philosophy of science, Professor Nelson is fascinated with the biology of the human body, how it assembles itself and how we maintain a sense of self within the growing and ageing process.

“I have always been influenced as an artist by process philosophy,” said Professor Nelson. “I think of things in terms of process and my work addresses growth, decay and the metaphysics of being. I see cancer as a complex system – a group of cells that detach themselves and have a life of their own and then they compete with the body for resources. A minority of scientists view cancer as a complex system, but I am pretty sure that I am the first artist to adopt this approach.” The experience of cancer, issues of mortality, healing and being also inform the artist’s approach.

Professor Nelson has distilled his initial thinking into the following operative metaphors and concepts:
  • viewing cancer as a form of anarchy;
  • looking at the way living systems from cities to cells address and engage with the domains in which they operate (autopoiesis)
  • viewing cancer as a complex system nested within the body and societal system.
The thinking behind this and examples of underpinning artwork and approaches can be seen here

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