SPACES – LifeSpace

In ALL, SPACES by Cat Lau

When you approach the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, it is hard to miss the large metal panels with artistic abstractions of the four scales of life: Molecular, Organellar, Cellular and Tissue. This piece, known as Scales of Life exemplifies scientific visualization and is a result of an art and science collaboration featuring artist Elaine Shemilt, scientist Mike Ferguson and architect Jo White. Thus, it is rather fitting that this piece greets visitors as they enter Scotland’s first art-science-research gallery, LifeSpace.

Discovery Centre for Translational & Interdisciplinary Research at the School of Life Sciences

‘Scales of Life’ (facade view)

Curated by a team of researchers from the university’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and School of Life Sciences, this gallery features interdisciplinary work across the university by blending together art, curation, scientific research and public engagement. Since opening its doors in October 2014, there have been nine exhibitions showcasing diverse themes, ranging from the implications of human co-existence with microbial life to the ethics of using human tissue in art and science. Ultimately, this space aims to engage both artists and scientists in order to shed insight on art, design and life sciences research at the university.

‘Signal/Noise: Imaging/Drawing’ exhibition by Daksha Patel (Photo by Jacquetta Clark)

Brain conditions illustrated by Caitlin Monney in the ‘Hearts & Minds’ exhibition (Photo by Kenny Baird)

Immunecraft by Eric Schockmel from ‘Silent Signal’ exhibition (Image provided by Animate Projects)

‘Scales of Life’ Exhibition View (Photo by Ruth Clark)

In addition to art and science collaborations, the gallery offers a range of programs to engage the public through events such as artist talks, debates and school workshops. They work with organizations such as the Dundee Science Festival and Women in Science Festival to create programming for both the gallery and the city. In doing so, this unique space provides a way for staff, students and the general public to engage in science and understand the ongoing research in their community.

Engaging with the audience at the opening of the exhibition ‘hormonal’ (Photo by Kathryn Rattray)

Visitors participate in a hands-on activity with research fellow Dr. Sarah McKim (right) at ‘That was then. This is now.’ exhibition presented by the Center for PostNatural History (Photo by Jacquetta Clark)

It is certainly impressive for a university to foster interdisciplinary collaborations through their own art and science gallery. The success of their exhibitions and ongoing partnerships are a testament to their dedication in growing the field of SciArt.

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About the Author

Cat Lau

Cat is a former behavioural neuroscientist-turned-science communicator. She is passionate about integrating creative approaches in science communication and knowledge mobilization. For the past few years, Cat has held diverse roles as a science writer, amateur-artist, nomadic science outreach facilitator and knowledge translation coordinator. Her interest in art-based science communication inspired her research in Canadian organizations and programs that use interdisciplinary approaches to engage the public in the sciences. This led to her interest in the evaluation component of the Science-Artist Residency at Art the Science. Ultimately, she hopes to develop resources that will contribute to the growth of Canadian science-art culture. Twitter: @scicommcat