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Art x Science: RCA students and scientists from King’s College London explore women’s health

A unique exhibition that took place as part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival earlier this month brought together artists from the Royal College of Art with PhD candidates from KCL’s School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences to create ART x SCIENCE at the Science Museum – connecting audiences with biomedical imaging research through unique installation artworks.

In Utero from RCA Art & Design practitioners Stiliyana Minkovska, Sarah Schrimpf and Wushang Tong and Biomedical Imaging PhD Julie Sigurdardottir was inspired by conversations with parents from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Maternity Voices Partnership. The exhibit centred around installations including an immersive, multi-sensory sculpture modelled on the womb. The interactive artwork explored how maternal physical and mental health impacts on foetal development during pregnancy.

In Utero, an installation by Julie Sigurdardottir, Stiliyana Minkovska, Sarah Schrimpf and Wushang Tong
In Utero, Julie Sigurdardottir, Stiliyana Minkovska, Sarah Schrimpf and Wushang Tong

Our MRes Healthcare & Design student Stiliyana Minkovska said: ‘It was a wonderful experience to work on the project. Working with Julie, who’s an expert in maternal imaging was incredible – giving insight into the miracle-like world of ultrasonography and imaging. I feel there’s so much more Art & Design could offer to this experience to make it more holistic, mother-centric and empowering.’

With the disruptions that have come about as an effect of the pandemic, the team behind In Utero hoped to communicate the difficulties faced by those going through childbirth. ‘We wanted to bring to the fore the notion that everyone in society ought to be aware of some difficulties they face and how we benefit from being allies to future and current parents’ Julie Sigurdardottir said.

Hidden Stories of the Heart, an artwork by Marica Muffoletto, Sophie Richter and Elizabeth Folashade
Hidden Stories of the Heart, Marica Muffoletto, Sophie Richter and Elizabeth Folashade

Hidden Stories of the Heart from Biomedical Science PhD Marica Muffoletto, artist and Fine Arts PhD Elizabeth Folashade and designer Sophie Richter explored the ways that trauma and stress impact upon women's hearts over time, using both cutting-edge medical imaging and accounts of real women. Marica Muffoletto said: ‘The concept of our exhibit came from a conversation with Elizabeth, who is a trained counsellor with a long-lasting history of dealing with subjects affected by trauma. We both shared a strong interest in unveiling these stories and relating them to science.’

Elizabeth is currently working on her thesis at the RCA investigating papier-mâché as a major method of representation for disenfranchised women. She brought her skills with this medium to the structures of the heart created by the three women for the exhibition, using medical imaging science as a basis for exploring the impact of trauma on the heart through art.

ART X SCIENCE - visitors exploring exhibits, using headphones and looking at displays
ART X SCIENCE at the Science Museum

The interactive heart models created by pairing Art & Design with science allowed their visitors to physically connect with the research and fostered a dialogue between the exhibition’s 2,000 visitors and the exhibitors. Sophie Richter said: ‘It has been a wonderful experience to see visitors interact with the exhibition. There has been a huge interest around the stories and topic of trauma and women, which made us realise how little we openly hold discussions and that we need to bring such stories more often to the forefront to inspire change.’

This project was part of the RCA's Community Engagement Programme. To find out more please click here

Interested in how design can be used to solve problems in healthcare? Find out about our MRes Healthcare & Design.