Illuminating the Self
Andrew new exhibition Illuminating the Self, (with Susan Adworth) is open at Hatton Gallery (18 January - 9 May 2020) and Vane Gallery (17 January - 29 February 2020). CANDO (Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics using Optogenetics) is a world class, multi-site, cross-disciplinary project to develop a cortical implant for optogenetic neural control. The goal is to create a first-in-man trial of the device in patients with focal epilepsy. This 7 year, £10M Innovative Engineering for Health Award, funded by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC involves a team of over 30 neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians based at Newcastle University, Imperial College, University College, London, and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Illuminating the Self responds to ground-breaking research at Newcastle University into a new treatment for epilepsy. The exhibition consists of artworks by Susan Aldworth and Andrew Carnie that explore different aspects of the university’s CANDO (Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics using Optogenetics) project. Optogenetics is a technique that involves the use of light to control cells in living tissue, typically brain cells, that have been genetically modified to be light-sensitive. A parallel exhibition of work by both artists takes place at Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, running from 18 January to 9 May 2020.
The exhibitions explore the human perspective of living with epilepsy and the neurological processes happening within the brain. Both artists are concerned with the hidden aspects of epilepsy, whether that is revealing the inner workings of the brain or expressing how it feels to have epilepsy.
Andrew Carnie’s work for the two exhibitions reflects on the CANDO project’s scientific and engineering aspects whilst also considering some of the ethical and moral questions surrounding it. At Vane, Carnie is showing the video work, A Tale of Two (2019), which consists of a series of ‘bouquets’ of USB programmable word fans, each with texts in blue and red that reflect different aspects of implants and implantation. The texts are in part taken from documents on the legal, ethical, and emotional aspects of implantation: they are in part derived from texts on ‘Everyday Cyborgs’ – people with attached and implanted medical devices such as artificial joint replacements, pacemakers, total artificial hearts, and limb prostheses – as well as Carnie’s own writing.
Storm to Calm: Rockall (2019) is one of a series of kinetic sculptures made by Carnie that are triggered by visitors as they walk through the exhibition. These pieces reflect on the nature of epilepsy, are concerned with balance and stability and how this can be interrupted and realigned. Carnie states: “The role of the audience is critical, as they form a part of the work triggering some of the sculptures’ actions. While focused upon the CANDO research, epilepsy is not an isolated condition, its effects are social as well as medical. While the optogenetics research using light to control cells in living tissue may have an impact beyond epilepsy and upon us all.”
The Enlightened (2015) suite is a series of monotypes, produced jointly by Aldworth and Carnie. In this work, Carnie contributes a human setting, a sense of self as viewed through science while Aldworth portrays the workings of the brain through delicate and urgent line work – a thought happening or a neutron firing.