Specimen Life (death) Drawing

Article text
Launched in 2011, Project ANATOME is centred on the collaboration between myself (as artist) and Anatomy Lecturer at the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University (UK). Assuming the role as artist in residence (AIR) within their anatomy laboratory, the project emerges from the interest in opening "up" (ANA) and "a cutting" (TOME) of anatomical pedagogy, to create a dialogue between artistic methodologies, sensory approaches to anatomy, and undergraduate experience of the ‘rites of passage’. The paper will present the participatory workshop Specimen Life (death) Drawing, which engages medical students with the act of observing, drawing and tracing their visual, intellectual and emotional encounters in the anatomy lab. The workshop offers the students an alternative encounter of the anatomy lab outside their conventional classes. Evidence shows that learning through the arts and humanities can have a significant impact on students’ understanding of the body (Phillips 2000, Collet and McLachlan 2005, Gull 2005). It is on these grounds that the workshop strives to assist teaching methodologies and enhance learning outcomes for the principle studies of anatomy. Assuring the students that prior drawing experience is not a requisite, they are encouraged to see the process of drawing as a means of observation; meticulously inspecting the subject(s) – a requisite for life drawing – and attending to the form, structure, and materiality of the cadaveric specimens, but also their conscious reflections of the emotions arising from the exercise. For the students to acquire a mastery of the body as a system of motion, but also emotion, they must access the sensual side of anatomy. Drawing as a visual strategy for their observations, bridges the gap between principal knowledge and sensory experiences of anatomy; giving rise to a more rounded, embodied, even humanised perception of the ‘dead’ teaching the ‘living’.

Research paper presented alongside ‘Death and Dissection’ exhibition, at Drawing in the University, International Meeting on Drawing, Image and Research, University of Oporto, Faculty of Fine Arts and Faculty of Architecture, Portugal, May 31 and June 1, 2013

DUT conference website