To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the rediscovery of the 19th Century Women's Operating Theatre of Old St Thomas's Hospital, a site-specific exhibition of artworks exploring a visual language for the changing pharmacological landscape of memory.
What is memory? Can we see, touch and hear our memories? What happens when we lose our memory as a result of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease? Can plant derived treatments help ameliorate such conditions?
Specimen brings together plant and garden history with scientific imaging, neurological and pharmacological research, and lens-based arts, representing a development of Dr Karen Ingham's previous investigations into the classification and ordering of the body in Anatomy Lessons.
Plants, like memories, are short-lived and ephemeral. The notion of Specimen inscribes research methods from taxonomy within the natural history of both plant and animal species. One of the challenges of botanical illustration was to capture the beauty and, significantly, the signature of the specimen in order to bring order to the world of plants, with particular regard to distinguishing the poisonous from the therapeutic. Ingham is interested in how cutting edge neuro-pharmacological research is creating a new generation of drugs that may help to control the devastating consequences of memory degeneration, many of which are derived from common plant specimens.
Consequently, the artworks are conceived as specimen cases and test tube experiments, and contain confocal microscopy and fMRI images from both plant and brain specimens, layered over photographic and time-based images. In a series of alembic and glass vanitas vases we can allegedly see the brain in the act of remembering.