Confronting Mortality with Art and Science: Scientific and Artistic Impressions on what the Certainty of Death Says about Life

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Pascale Pollier-Green, Ann van de Velde, Chantal Pollier
Asp / Vubpress / Upa, 2007 - Art - 277 pages
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Artists, and medical artists in particular, have always incorporated in their work the various symbols of death. Nevertheless they consider their work to be a celebration of life and a preservation of something beautiful. The work presented in this book is an ongoing research and investigation by scientists and artists into the fascinating subject of mortality. Plants, bugs, birds, animals and people, all are equal in mortality. Medical and scientific artists have the desire to piece the world together and to make sense of our fractured reality.They use the power of representational drawing. To draw is to see. Sometimes the question is answered when the work is finished, at other times the finished work is only another point of departure.

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Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen, Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Genève, Switzerland wrote this (23.09.09):
"I have had a good look through 'Confronting Mortality with Art and Science'.
I find the
book attractive both because of its format and the sobre and elegant graphic design on the cover (as well as inside by the way). It's just a little smelly...but that's quite beside the point! Besides that, it is very agreeable to flip through. You find your way from chapter to chapter very easily, and the interior design keeps it all very lively.
I have been very attentive to Science translated into any artistic form for many years now, so I was very intrigued to discover this book. The exhibition must have been very interesting and I am sorry I didn't know about it. Especially as everything was centred around the human body/emotions - something I am particularly fond of. One thing I would have like to have encountered a little more perhaps: the world of words.
Although the exhibition does have a few poems, what about a theatrical performance the next time?
I was particularly taken by the various artists' work - less by work which can be qualified as 'artistic' simply because it is an aesthetic rendering of something scientific. I enjoyed very much what Bart Koubaa had to say. I think Pascale Pollier-Green's 'Autopsy in a nutshell' is funny, clever and very beautiful - and I enjoyed reading about her at the end of the book. Laurie Hassold's work is quite amazing and original. And Caitlin Berrigan's truffles witty and full of fun. And of course, Mara Haseltine's sculptures are singular too.
As you see - although it is very subjective - I was more taken by Part II of the book. Part I was, for me, very interesting though frequently very academic. And perhaps, this is my main criticism: although what is described in this book could be hugely popular - in the real sense of the word - I find that the world of Science and Art are playing ping-pong with each other, instead of stretching their arms out to the layman. Yet there is no better way than Art to do it. This is something I have been working at for many years - popularising Science. The outside world needs it, besides loving it. But it also needs a language it can understand."


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About the author (2007)

Pascale Pollier-Green is a medical/scientific artist. She completed a postgraduate training course with the Medical Artists' Education Trust of Great Britain. Ann Van de Velde is a hematologist at the Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium. Chantal Pollier is a sculptor and a psychologist.

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