Inspiring ideas from the public in AFTERIMAGE

Community art-science exhibition launched

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, has teamed up with the Galway City Arts Office to launch a new Community Art-Science exhibition in Westside.

By award winning art duo Cleary Connolly (Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly ), AFTERIMAGE features portraits of 19 people who live or work in the Westside area of Galway, and reveals the remarkable diversity of contemporary Irish society.

The exhibit, now permanently housed in the Westside Resource Centre, consists of 19 portraits, each composed of a black and white portrait accompanied by a colour negative mapping. Each portrait is set against a background of images drawn from science and research, which warrant a second look to decipher their content.

Each participant is a researcher, either in real life or in their imagination, and so while the CÚRAM researchers appear against images drawn from their own work, the local community members are set against images referring to their preferred area of research, in response to the question, “If you were a researcher what would you research?”

Professor Abhay Pandit, scientific director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “We aim to inspire and engage all communities with current and cutting edge research that is happening here in Ireland. Unfortunately chronic illness such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, and heart disease are familiar to most Irish communities, and it is important that we provide opportunities for people to find out more about our work in finding solutions to these illnesses and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. That can be through the work of filmmakers, teachers, or artists such as Cleary Connolly who use the research as inspiration and break barriers to provide another ‘way in’ to the world of science.”

Artist Anne Cleary, said of the project: “We were really interested in CÚRAM’s work on corneal implants and also in advanced biomimicry. Our work is all about perception, how people see the world, how they adapt. We were privileged to work with such a diverse and interesting group of people from the Westside community and have been greatly inspired by all of the participants and their ideas.”

Participants who featured in the project include Suriya, originally from India. If she was a researcher her main area of research interest would be genetics, in particular stem cells and stem cell treatments, which she thinks have the potential to treat an enormous range of diseases and conditions that plague millions of people around the world.

Mary, originally from Roscommon and now living in Westside, became interested in the effects of salt intake on the body, having participated in a sodium clinical trial at University Hospital Galway.

Francis, who currently lives in Galway having returned from overseas, works in social care, youth, community, and social services. He is interested in exploring the metaphor of “all persons as scientists” and would like to see science used more to understand issues that really affect us personally and societally.

Precious is originally from Zimbabwe and would like to learn more about the environment, soil improvement, and agriculture. She is also interested in the natural sciences, and is particularly interested in research at CÚRAM related to developing medical adhesives derived from marine life.

James Harrold, arts officer with Galway City Council, said the project has very successfully brought the worlds of art and science together. “I am delighted to see how positive an experience this has been for all involved and we look forward to deepening connections between these communities in the coming year," he added.

James Coyne, CEO of Westside Resource Centre and community partner on the project, said the Westside community is a strong and vibrant one with its own annual community arts festival. “It has been hugely rewarding to be part of the process and bring different parts of the community together. I think we have all learned something new and it’s definitely created a great deal of curiosity about the research that’s happening right here on our doorstep.”

CÚRAM’s public engagement programme, which incorporates artist in residence projects, supports the Science Foundation Ireland objective of having the most scientifically informed and engaged public. It has a strong focus on empowering diverse communities with knowledge and providing new ways for people to engage and interact with its cutting edge research.

The exhibit is now installed at the Westside Resource Centre. The project team will be showing the exhibit at various events around the country throughout the year.

For more information on the artists and their work visit www.connolly-cleary.com Cleary and Connolly’s work is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.

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