FLEX + PLY Textile Metaphors For Anatomy. An Exhibition

Karen Fleming, John Charles McLachlan, Gabrielle Finn, Aoife Ludlow

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


Fleming was PI of ‘Flex and Ply’ a Wellcome Trust funded collaboration in which she headed an arts team at Ulster with Professor John McLachlan leading medical collaborators at Durham University. How can ephemeral fashion and body painting contribute to medical knowledge and understanding? The initial ‘dermatomes’ body of work centred on a collaborative mapping process and the TAP research methodology (outcome 3) identified further research questions. This subsequent work employed mixed methods and a grounded theory approach to develop knowledge and theory through observation about invisible maps of the body. This informed the development of artworks for exhibition and academic outcomes researching the development of the maps. Art and design was central to consideration of how the visual material came to be represented in its current form. Content analysis (NVivo9) was applied to the development of 20Century maps. Comparative analysis of published studies led to scaling the flat maps onto garment pattern pieces of ubiquitous jeans, with 4 pairs of jeans representing 100 years of maps. These clearly demonstrated how the 2D norm of the map operated ineffectually on 3D bodies, how evolving artistic conventions, prevailing design values, ethics, politics and rebranding in successive illustrations have influenced the scientific interpretation of what purport to be neutral objects. A paper for 4th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science (Fleming, McLachlan 2010) also developed a narrative to conserve and (re-) acknowledge the pioneering legends (Head and Campbell 1900, Foerster 1933 Keegan and Garrett 1948) whose research originated the clinically significant maps.The grounded approach detected in responses to the work cultural attitudes to the anatomical position, asymmetrical dynamic movement, to colour and to gender. The work was digitally printed and woven in a technically challenging and innovative digital warp printing process with visiting professor Paul Turnbull to produce double sided images at greater than life size that could be exhibited with light intervention in non-art spaces. A launch of the Blashko and Langer lines work at the Hunterian Anatomy Museum, Glasgow (2010) coincided with AMEE conference, with subsequent exhibition at Flowerfields in 2010. ); Two venues in the largest hospital in Europe- James Cook University Hospital and events as part of National Pathology Week (2010). A projection was developed that was part of Europe-wide Paint a Building Blue (2010.) The use of art processes to interrogate 2D mapping was presented in the peer reviewed 11th European League of Institutes of Art Biennial Conference Fleming K, Conway S., McLachlan, J.C. (2010) ‘Artist as Warrior Intervenor. How are professionalism and employability enhanced by cross-disciplinary engagement? Conventionally, when scientists work with artists, the scientist tells the artist about science, and the artist finds some way of presenting that to the public as an artwork. Fleming’s Wellcome trust funded team reversed that trend, by helping their science project partners develop new understandings of the human body. Related publications - ‘The art of teaching anatomy – a case study’ Conway, Breen, Fleming in Pedagogies and Practice Vol 1 issue 1. Pp (insert) ISBN (insert) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJHftAGZ6c4
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2010
EventFLEX + PLY Textile Metaphors For Anatomy. An Exhibition - Hunterian Anatomy Museum at the University of GLasgow / Glasgow, UK
Duration: 3 Sep 20106 Sep 2010


  • Art
  • Textiles
  • Anatomy
  • Medical Education


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