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article imageReview: What does it mean to be human? New London exhibit reveals all Special

By Tim Sandle     Oct 20, 2019 in Science
London - What can an urban spaceman tells us about the human condition? These are some of the unusual objects on display at a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London.
The aim of the new exhibition is to “explore trust, identity and health in a changing world,” according to the Turner-winning architectural collective Assemble, who have designed and curated the space.
The exhibition, in the building designed to promote the best in medicine and science, presents over fifty artworks and medical related items, divided into four thematic groups; Genetics, Minds and Bodies, Infection and Environmental Breakdown.
Transparent woman  by an unknown artist  at the Wellcome Collection in London - the aim is to presen...
Transparent woman, by an unknown artist, at the Wellcome Collection in London - the aim is to present the human body in a different way.
The idea behind each of the sections is t take a theme and then to build a focused exploration of what it means to be human in the 21st Century.
The exhibition contains a new commission by Yinka Shonibare titled "Refugee Astronaut, unveiled." Refugee Astronaut wears a suit made from fabric inspired by traditional Nigerian patterns and reflects on themes of “climate change, identity, colonialism and globalization”.
A traveler in an unknown world  the Refugee astronaut seems both under- and over-prepared for his tr...
A traveler in an unknown world, the Refugee astronaut seems both under- and over-prepared for his trip.
Also among the various items on display are a tank of zebrafish (a species with which we share around 70 percent of our genes) and a jukebox playing songs about epidemics.
Jukebox that plays songs about disease at the Wellcome Collection  by Kin Design.
Jukebox that plays songs about disease at the Wellcome Collection, by Kin Design.
With genetics, what does the future have in store? An interesting, if distributing possibility, comes from Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who sequenced DNA from discarded cigarette butts, gum and hair and looked for genetic markers related to appearance and constructed an image from the experiment:
Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s three-dimensional printed portrait - Sequencing the DNA from chucked cigar...
Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s three-dimensional printed portrait - Sequencing the DNA from chucked cigarette butts and spat-out lumps of gum that she found on the street, she has picked out the genetic markers that influence physical appearance and created a portrait.
There are also various donated prosthetics are featured.
Example of a prosthetic leg  from the Wellcome Collection  London.
Example of a prosthetic leg, from the Wellcome Collection, London.
The PPE Portrait Project is an art intervention designed to improve Ebola care, designed by Mary Beth Heffernan. “Wouldn’t they be less frightening if the person on the inside was pictured on the outside?” Heffernan poses the question, and she produces works where the portraits of the healthcare workers displayed on the front of their smocks.
The PPE Portrait Project is an art intervention designed to improve Ebola care.
The PPE Portrait Project is an art intervention designed to improve Ebola care.
A perspective on the state of the world is provided through some artistic alterations to Moroccan pressure cookers. This work is Batoul S'Himi, and they represent the uneven global distribution of climate breakdown. She transforms potentially hazardous household cooking appliances and utensils into artworks that convey a sense of anxiety about the world.
Batoul S Himi s work takes major global issues and situates them in a global setting.
Batoul S'Himi's work takes major global issues and situates them in a global setting.
In terms of contemporary bio-technology ‘DIY’ CRISPR gene editing kit. CRISPR is an acronym for ‘clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats. As Digital Journal has reported (see the article: "Is CRISPR technology set to change biological science?”) the technology is a form of biological cut-and-paste molecular scissors.
A CRISPR kit - CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows resear...
A CRISPR kit - CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops.
Alongside the impressive works of art are other artefacts, such as include seeds taken from the Svalbard global seed vault. This is a storage facility created by the Norwegian government in 2008 to protect vital crops such as wheat against global disasters. Items from the London Freedom Seedbank are also on show.
The London Freedom Seed Bank is a network of food growers and gardeners dedicated to saving  storing...
The London Freedom Seed Bank is a network of food growers and gardeners dedicated to saving, storing and distributing open-pollinated seed.
There are also sculptures, looking at human functions from a different perspective. This sculpture is designed to evoke the smell of breast milk, from artist Tasha Marks. The form is designed to conjure up memories of motherhood and newborn babies.
Commissioned for the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition  Being Human  5318008  a sculpture desig...
Commissioned for the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition, Being Human, 5318008, a sculpture designed to symbolize breast milk.
The exhibition also helps the visitor look at different people in different ways. An example is from The Accessible Icon Project. This is an ongoing work of design activism, beginning with a graphic icon and continuing its work as a collaboration among people with disabilities with the aim of moving towards a more accessible world.
A transparent orange symbol of a person in a chair to express personhood  leaning forward with a dou...
A transparent orange symbol of a person in a chair to express personhood, leaning forward with a double wheel to suggest movement.
The image below is of Latai Taumoepeau is a contemporary Punake — a body-centred performance artist whose powerful artistic practice tells the stories of her homelands, the Island Kingdom of Tonga, and her birthplace of the Eora Nation, Sydney. The image explores culture and life changes.
Latai Taumoepeau - Artist portrait / collage.
Latai Taumoepeau - Artist portrait / collage.
Commenting on the overall exhibition, Curator Claire Barlow is quoted as saying: “Being Human explores our thoughts and feelings about health, our identities, relationships and our impact on the changing environment." This sums up this fascinating and challenging exhibition perfectly.
The Wellcome Collection is located along Euston Road, London. The exhibition is running from now and into 2020. Entry is free.
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