Vision and Images: 22nd January 2013

London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group – NEXT MEETING!

Vision and Images

6-8pm, 22nd January 2013

The Science Museum’s Dana Centre
165 Queen’s Gate
South Kensington

Please email to book for this talk. And see the Dana Centre web page for this event more information about the venue. The event will be followed by a wine reception.

At this meeting our speakers Helen Barron, Matteo Farinella, Ludmilla Jordanova, Toby Ward and Lucy Wilford will discuss vision and images from the perspectives of history, medicine (psychiatry), art and neuroscience. Each speaker will address the question ‘what are the methods of looking employed in your production and/or interpretation of images?’ Using examples, they will each explore how they work with or produce images in their own practice.

As usual, the speakers will present for about an hour in total (each for around 10-15 mins), and there will then be an hour for questions and general discussion between all in attendance.

This event is free and all are welcome! We are very happy to be able to hold this event at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. Please email to book.

The Speakers:

Helen Barron

Helen Barron is currently doing a PhD in Neuroscience at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL. Her research explores the neural representation of both rewarding and non-rewarding objects in the human brain.  In particular, she is interested in understanding how we represent unfamiliar objects and the neurobiological mechanisms underlying memory formation between multiple objects.  She uses functional MRI (fMRI) to generate both anatomical and functional images of the human brain whilst participants carry out specific tasks.  She will discuss how interpretation of these images allows for inferences to be made regarding the neurological basis of object representation.

Matteo Farinella

Matteo is currently doing a PhD in neuroscience at University College London. During the years he also developed a parallel career as a comic artist and collaborated with several international magazines. Recently he became interested in science communication and he started to produce scientific illustrations and short educational comics. In 2012 he received a Wellcome Trust People Award to write a graphic novel aimed to disseminate basic notions of neuroscience (in collaboration with Dr. Hana Ros and film-maker Richard Wyllie).

Ludmilla Jordanova

Ludmilla Jordanova was trained in the natural sciences, history and philosophy of science and art history and theory, and she tries to blend these perspectives in her historical work. Her current interests include portraiture, public history, and the construction of identity in medical contexts. She is a Trustee of the Science Museum Group, which comprises five museums in London, York, Bradford, Manchester and Shildon, and was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery London between 2001 and 2009. Recent books include History in Practice, 2nd edition, 2006 and The Look of the Past: visual and material evidence in historical practice, 2012.

Toby Ward

Toby Ward attended the City and Guilds of London Art School where he won the Richard Ford Travel Award.  Widely known for his conversation pieces and animated drawings commissioned to record events, he is also an accomplished portrait painter. He has drawn many events, including President Clinton’s visit to Oxford in 2001 and the work of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Bosnia.  He also accompanied HRH The Prince of Wales to record his tour of the Gulf States. Toby has also worked on many important architectural projects including a series of drawings recording the rebuilding of the Royal Opera House and the conservation of Chastleton House in Oxfordshire for The National Trust.  He has also been commissioned to draw and paint many interiors including those of the Ritz Hotel and Prideaux Place in Cornwall. Toby has been working at St Martin-in-the Fields since 2003 observing and recording the life of the Church and documenting its recent renewal project in a set of large drawings. Other residencies have been at the Athenaeum Club, The Mercers’ Company and The Society of Antiquaries of London. In 2004 Toby was commissioned to draw the Tour de France in Liege, this lead to a series of paintings inspired by the sport of cycling. Other sporting commissions include a residency at the 2011 Open Golf Championship. Toby has also illustrated two books describing the adventures of those who played the Great Game in central Asia in the 19th century and a book describing the life of the Island of Madeira. Toby shows his work with the Catto gallery and the New English Art Club to which he was elected in 2010.

Lucy Wilford

Lucy Wilford is a junior doctor in her second year of specialist psychiatry training. She is currently working at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, completing a six month post focused on psychotherapy at the Anxiety Disorders Residential Unit. She graduated from Southampton University in 2008, and worked in Winchester and Portsmouth before coming to London to complete a Master’s degree in Medical Humanities at King’s College London last year. Since returning to full time medicine, she has been involved in setting up a teaching scheme for medical students which uses visual art to explore the process of developing empathy and understanding in medical practice.

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Video Podcast of Transplantation Discussion Group

We are now able to offer video podcasts of the interdisciplinary discussion group’s meeitngs.

On 25th June we gathered at King’s College London to discuss the topic of transplantation. Historian Paul Craddock, philosopher Adam Ferner, clinician and scientist Refik Gökmen and artist Helen Pynor each gave their perspective on the topic. Full details on the speakers can be found here and a full video of their presentations can be watched here.




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Transplantation: 25th June 2012

London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group

Transplantation: 25th June 2012 5-7pm, K3.11 Raked Lecture Theatre, King’s College London, Strand.

At our next meeting we will be discussing transplantation. Our speakers will be Paul Craddock, Adam Ferner, Refik Gökmen and Helen Pynor. The work of all these speakers concerns transplantation in some way, and you can read more about Paul, Adam, Refik and Helen below. As usual, their presentations will be followed by an hour of general discussion.

All three speakers will be addressing the ways in which transplantation relates to our understanding of ‘life’. They have suggested that it may be helpful to think about the following in advance. No need to do anything in particular, just some ideas to get you thinking before coming along!

  • What sort of conceptual space allows for the possibility of bodily transplantation?
  • How do you understand transplantation?
  • In what ways do you think transplantation relates to transfusion?
  • How do you think modern transplantation shaped the boundaries of life and death?
  • How does transplantation affect the way we understand ownership of life?

Paul Craddock

Paul is a Ph.D. candidate currently writing on pre-20th century transplant surgery and transfusion at the London Consortium. After a brief time studying music and performing arts, living in rural China, and working for the National Health Service, Paul made the switch to cultural and medical history.  In this field, he has been invited to lecture around the UK, in Europe, and in the US.  He has never had a transplant and never received a transfusion – his interest in these procedures come from thinking about generally how we relate to the material world by making transactions that are at the same time bodily and financial.

Currently based in London, Paul is the Director of London Consortium Television, the audio-visual arm of the London Consortium. And in another professional life, he shoots and produces films for medical establishments and museum exhibitions.  He has films currently on exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts and the British Dental Association Museum.

Adam Ferner

Adam Ferner is currently doing his PhD at Birkbeck College. His research is focussed primarily on how philosophical biological concerns impact on the ‘personal identity debate’ as it stands in analytic metaphysics. He also works for the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and does editorial work for the journals Think and Philosophy, and regularly contributes to The Philosophers Magazine.

Refik Gökmen

Refik is a Clinical Lecturer in Renal Medicine at the MRC Centre for Transplantation based at the Guy’s Campus of King’s College London. He recently completed his PhD in Immunology in the same department, and now divides his time between ongoing laboratory-based research into basic immune mechanisms, and clinical work in nephrology and transplantation on the South Thames training programme in Renal Medicine.

He qualified in medicine from Cambridge and UCL, and has maintained an interest in the ethical and philosophical dimensions of both clinical practice and scientific research ever since his BA degree in the History & Philosophy of Science.

Helen Pynor

Artist Helen Pynor works at the intersection of art and the life sciences. Her research interests include the relationship between the materiality of the body and its status as a culturally constructed entity, and the notion of a ‘distributed’ consciousness that extends beyond the brain to the wider body. She has recently completed a major project with artist Peta Clancy, ‘The Body is a Big Place’, exploring organ transplantation and the capacity for bodies to travel spatially, temporally, and interpersonally.

Helen holds a Bachelor of Science, First Class Hons (Macquarie University), a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Sydney College of the Arts) and a practice-based PhD (Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney). Helen has exhibited widely in Australia and Europe including at the current ‘Brains: The Mind as Matter’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, London, where her work is the lead image for the exhibition.

Helen’s collaborator Peta Clancy is a visual artist who has explored photography and more recently video and new media to undertake an extended inquiry into art and the biomedical sciences. Through her photographic practice she has conducted an in depth exploration of the skin as a porous membrane and the surface of the photographic medium. Peta recently completed a practice based PhD in Fine art at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia where she currently holds a lecturing position.

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Report on Language Discussion, 23rd January

Interdisciplinary Discussion Group: Language

On Monday 23rd January, the University of London Interdisciplinary Discussion group met for the third time. The topic in question was ‘language’. We had presentations from linguist turned neuroscientist ‘Ōiwi Parker Jones, and from Lecturer in English and RCUK fellow in Science and Technology, Laura Salisbury. Both talked about language within the context of their work, and this was followed by a discussion with the audience.

‘Ōiwi began by commenting that although he has a background in both linguistics and neuroscience, this is the first time he has ever been forced to bring them together. He discussed Chomsky’s theories of language, reflecting on how exactly language works, before moving on to discuss his current research which concerns predicting language recovery after brain disease by examining the networks that get created in the brain. He also speculated briefly on where, if at all, we can locate language in the brain. He ended by tantalisingly quoting from recent work (Schnupp, Nelken and King, 2011) which posited that language is ‘telepathy’ as it concerns projecting your thoughts into the head of another and vice versa.

Laura Salisbury then discussed her work on Beckett and aphasia which he has been working on with Professor Christopher Code, an aphasiologist based at the University of Exeter. She traced affinities between Beckett’s presentation of language as something which can be both consciously constructed and pre-consciously and involuntarily uttered and the work of psychologists and neurologists during the contemporaneous and preceding period. She argued that Beckett’s work often vomits forth words which will never fully correspond with the intentionality of his texts, and so it is with us. She related this in particular to the work of the late-nineteenth century neurologist, John Hughlings Jackson who thought that language production involved both conscious and pre-conscious processes. In 1864 he wrote a paper concerning the speech automatisms in aphasics, and Salisbury related this to Beckett’s literary works.

These two wonderful and diverse presentations were then followed by a long and lively discussion between the speakers and audience members. The discussion covered topics such as how to read fMRI scans, the links between neurology and cybernetics, research into animal communication, artificial intelligence and the differences between historical and non-historical interdisciplinary research.

The details of the next meeting will be announced here shortly.

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Language: 23rd January 2012

The details of our next meeting have now been annoucned.

The University of London Interdisciplinary Discussion Group


Monday 23rd January 2012, 5-7pm in K3.11 Raked Lecture Theatre, King’s College London, King’s Building, Strand Campus, Strand, London

On 23rd January we will meet for the third time to discuss the topic of language. Our three speakers will address this topic from their respective disciplinary and professional backgrounds.  Each speaker will present for 20 minutes and then there will be an hour for questions and general discussion on this topic both in relation to the papers presented and with regards to the work of others present. This will also be a chance to reflect on interdisciplinarity in general and how the combination of these three papers enriches our understanding of the topic ‘language’


Laura Salisbury, Lecturer in English, Birkbeck College and RCUK Fellow in Science, Technology and Culture

Oiwi Parker Jones, Research Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL and at Wolfson College, Oxford

Helena Ballard, Teacher of the Deaf and associate of Life and Deaf [24.1.12, N.B. Unfortunately, Helena Ballard was unable to speak at this event in the end, but I have kept her details up for interest]

More Information on the speakers

Helena Ballard

Helena Ballard is an Advisory Teacher of the Deaf in Greenwich. Much of her current focus is on work with families who have newly diagnosed babies and small children, although she also goes into mainstream schools to support hearing impaired children and the staff who work with them.   A French graduate and lover of music, she came late to the field of deafness and to British Sign Language, both of which she finds fascinating.  Life and Deaf has been an important and stimulating addition for the past five years.

Life and Deaf started in a secondary mainstream unit for deaf students in Greenwich and came from a poetry project school-wide.  Working with specialist Speech and Language Therapists, Jane Thomas and Katie Martin, the deaf students  explored their identities through the medium of poetry, producing such powerful and rich work that a beautifully illustrated book of their poems was produced, accompanied by a DVD of the young poets speaking or signing their poetry. The aims of the project included the exploration of the beauty of language but also its power in allowing access to difficult or unexplored emotions which might affect mental health.  At a launch subsequently it became apparent that the students, their friends and families were so motivated and positively affected by the whole process that there were lasting and important benefits.  As a result the Life and Deaf Association was formed and the project was rolled out nationwide, with a web-site, a workbook to encourage wider participation and many other activities.  Life and Deaf 2 will culminate in a launch on the South Bank in March 2012.

She will be discussing he work teaching deaf children and Life and Deaf, and what these two things contribute to our understanding of language.

Oiwi Parker Jones

Oiwi Parker Jones is a linguist and neuroscientist whose research focuses on models of language in healthy and damaged brains, particularly in bilingual populations. He is particularly interested in (1) how multiple languages are represented in a single brain and (2) how bilinguals recover each language after brain damage due to cancer or stroke. His research uses a variety of methods, including anatomical and functional neuroimaging and dynamic network-based modelling. Other areas of research include the neuroscience of reading and sign-language, as well as topics in general linguistics, such as language documentation and activism (especially of endangered and Eastern Polynesian languages).”

He will be talking about his various investigations into language.

Laura Salisbury

Laura Salisbury is author of Samuel Beckett: Laughing Matters, Comic Timing (Edinburgh University Press, 2012) and co-editor of Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1800-1950). She has published a number of essays on aphasia and literary modernism and her major current research project is a book-length study of the relationship between modernism, modernity, and early twentieth-century neuroscientific conceptions of language. Other forthcoming work includes co-editing a volume called Kittler Now (Polity), co-editing a special issue of Medical Humanities on the topic of ‘Beckett and the Brain’, and writing a chapter on narratives of the brain in contemporary British Fiction for The Decades Project: International Perspectives on Contemporary British Fiction (Continuum).

She will talk about these aspects of her work in relation to the topic of language.

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Memory: 9th May 2011

We met for our second meeting on 9th May 2011 where we discussed the topic of memory.

We had highly diverse speakers at this event, who each discussed the topic of memory from their own perspective. Their presentations were followed by a lively discussion from the audiencce about the relationships between them and their various merits.

The speakers were:

Professor John Morton, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL.

Professor Morton is widely recognised for his work on memory, and on the modelling of cognitive processes and developmental disorders.  From 1982 to 1998 he was the Director of the MRC Cognitive Development Unit.  He was also Chair of the British Psychological Society Working Party on Recovered Memories.  He talked to us about his work on the role of memory in dissociative-identity disorder (DID). He referred us to the fascinating website of the DID patient and artist Kim Noble. He discussed how there are highly distinctive artistic stlyes correspondong to separate personalities.

Joanne Bristol, The Bartlett, Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL

Joanne began by presenting a 5-minute performance titled Association for Imaginary Architecture. She describes this work as, “a performance involving architectural design, narration and touch. The performance involves a one-on-one exchange between myself and audience members. I ask individuals to verbally describe an architectural space they have experienced. As the space is described I draw a ‘plan’ of it on the speaker’s back with my hands. My intention is to offer dialogical spaces regarding relationships between architecture, memory, imagination, translation, inscription and the body.”

Following the performance, she presented excerpts from her paper ‘back words spaces’ which locates ways that Association for Imaginary Architecture might offer insights into how built worlds are imagined and internalized. The paper focuses on the performance’s use of vocalization and touch to remember ‘old’ space while also creating ‘new’ space. The paper also touches on literary theorist David Wills’ concept of ‘dorsality’ to address the physical space of the human back, as well as the space and performance of memory.

Daniel Friesner, Explainer Unit, The Science Museum.

Daniel did his PhD at King’s College London, on philosophical issues in developmental psychology.  For the last few years he has co-organised a reading group on the relations between science and literature.  He will talk about some literary aspects of Luria’s famous case-history, The Mind of a Mnemonist, which is about one man’s remarkable memory.

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Drugs: 2nd February 2011

We met for our first session on 2nd February 2011 to discuss the topic of drugs, inspired by the Wellcome exhibition about the same subject.

We discussed two neuroscientific papers on drugs, and Neil Saigal, a researcher from Cambridge looking the opiod receptor, impulsivity and cocaine abuse, introduced his work. We also discussed Aldous Huxley’s text recounting his experiences of mescalin The Doors of Perception, which was introduced by Nicholas Murray, Huxley’s biographer and the King’s College Royal Literary fund writer in residence.

More information on this meeting can be found on the King’s College Centre for the Humanities and Health Blog. It was also reviewed in the interdisciplinary journal, Excursions, based at the University of Sussex. Read the review here.

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