Wellcome Trust Centre For Mitochondrial Research

The Project

Valence is an art/science collaboration and investigation at Newcastle University between Fine Art and the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research (WCMR)

WCMR is a leading international research centre at Newcastle University Medical School which aims to transform the lives of patients with mitochondrial disease. Fine Art at Newcastle University, currently ranked top in the UK for art & design, is very actively engaged in cross disciplinary work between artists and people in other fields.

Mitochondria are the energy producing components of the cell and contain their own DNA. Mutations in mitochondrial DNA can cause an energy deficit causing mitochondrial disease that predominantly affects the brain, liver, muscle and heart causing symptoms such as epilepsy, stroke, and muscle weakness. The WCMR supports patients with mitochondrial disease and conducts pioneering research into the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease including development of new IVF techniques which may potentially prevent women affected by mitochondrial DNA disease passing the condition on to their children.

Valence is an artist residency programme with the WCMR research team involving six fine art students and WCMR staff who have been working with scientists and patients developing work that offers a range of insights into this vital body of research and how it is perceived and understood by scientists, patients and their families.

The artists are: Beth Allsop, Katie Antoniou, Jed Buttress (undergraduate students), Olivia Turner (PhD researcher), Jasmine Matthews and CallumTodd (who graduated this July).

Research collaborator and WCMR project lead Pavandeep Rai believes that: ‘Art and science are two sides of the same coin, both strive to make sense of the complicated world around us. This collaboration channels this common goal into the communication of the effect of mitochondrial disease on patients, their families and those involved in its research using an alternative perspective to promote discussion about the disease’. To learn more about Pavandeep Rai’s involvement in Valence please click here.

Artist Jasmine Matthews says: ‘Cutting-edge medical research is really exciting, and the ability to reflect on it from an artist’s perspective gives an outside view of a labyrinth of data. I hope to bring light to issues faced when trying to study something as complex as human life’. Talking about public understanding of the issues artist Callum Caplan says: ‘Sometimes science can be hard to digest or fully comprehend. In this collaboration, art is used as a middle-man, translating complex information into something more accessible to the general public’.

The exhibition presents the first phase of this investigation for public examination and, through an interactive symposium, for discussion and response from patients, scientists, clinicians, artists and others working in the humanities. The outcomes of this will be published online and the exhibition will be further developed and toured as the residency progresses.

Valence takes place on the 20-30 September 2017 at Vane Gallery in Newcastle and the symposium is being held at Vane and Ampersand Inventions between 1.30-2pm on the 27th September. To get tickets for the Symposium please click here