Monday, 22 April 2013

Integrating Knowledge - A King's Cultural Institute and Central St Martin's Collaboration

As a firm believer in the importance of public engagement for academia, I jumped at the chance to be involved in the Integrating Knowledge exhibition, even if only counting visitors and handing out information packs!

Integrating Knowledge is a collaboration between King's Cultural Institute and Central St Martin's to present research to the public in innovative and exciting ways. The project, curated by Caroline Sipos, paired students of MA Communication Design with academics and PhD students in Geography, Anatomy, English and Law to find ways to express academic research through videos, installations and interactive presentations. 

The exhibition covers topics as diverse as the Argentine Dirty War to neuroscience, while the theme of place/space runs through the exhibition in pieces about gentrification, regeneration, and the difference between public and private.

One of my favourite pieces is Taco-trification by Eunjung Ahn, Michelle  Dwyer, Ferdinand Freiler and Wenquing Yu, based on the work of Juliet Kahne from the Department of Geography. Through a short stop-motion film, they illustrate the gentrification of Downtown Los Angeles through tacos, which have gone from a cheap staple for local people to an overpriced trend that only the yuppies can afford.

I also loved Handwritten Waves by Mariane Assous-Plunian, Mairead Gillespie, Julia Stubenboeck and Dusan Tomic, inspired by Kate Symondson's deconstruction of Virginia Woolf's The Waves. They covered a whole wall of the gallery with extracts from Woolf's text, each handwritten by a different person, and created six books, collecting the handwritten pieces that represent the subjective experiences of each of the six main characters. Absolutely stunning.

Certainly the most ambitious piece of the whole exhibition is Howbrain by Shesley Crustna, Hoc Ling Duong, Timothy Klofski and Apolline Saillard, presenting research by neuroscientist Prof. Jon Clarke into the functioning of brain cells. Visitors can interact with the piece by stepping on pads on the floor which control the projection, choosing between research on the sub-cellular level, the cellular level and aspirations of future research. 

Overall, the exhibition achieves exactly what is hoped from a collaboration between artists and academics, engaging audiences on both an aesthetic and an intellectual level. In the three days I spent working there, visitors frequently expressed how much they'd learnt from the show, while others just enjoyed the beauty of the installations and videos. I hope to see more collaborations like this soon, as its great to see research inspiring people beyond classrooms and academic journals.

Integrating Knowledge runs until 28 April at Inigo Rooms in the East Wing of Somerset House, and is absolutely free. 

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