Wellcome Trust Souzou Workshop: Digital-Material Relationships

Comparing artist's work to Manga characters

Comparing artist’s work to Manga characters

In order to explore aspects of contemporary digital material interplay within a museum and gallery context, the Wellcome Trust hosted and co-facilitated a workshop, with Central Saint Martins, at their headquarters in London. As a result, in front of me is a heap of orange fluorescent sticky notes.  On each sheet is an interpretation, by postgraduate students, relating to Wellcome’s highly acclaimed Souzou exhibition.

During the workshop so many rich and varied perspectives were shared in parallel sessions that some time is needed to gather all the information, and to reflect upon it. However, in the meantime what immediate insights or themes regarding the physical objects were scribed on the fluorescent notes?

  • Intensity and depth
  • Common visual signs of gender
  • Translation of life into form
  • Making sense of the virtual and artificial
  • Expressing a simplified form of the digital world
  • Desire to touch certain objects
  • Longing for the physical
  • Pure making
  • Unlimited palette of materials
  • Materiality as boundaries and properties
  • Uniformity and difference
  • Confidence of expression
  • Richness of the artist’s “inner” self
  • Making sense of the world through details.

Wellcome Students 1

By undertaking cultural interpretation through artifacts, we engage the other culture in the first instance not with our minds, the seat of our cultural biases, but with our senses. Figuratively speaking, we put ourselves into the bodies of the individual who made or used these objects; we see with their eyes and touch with their hands.

Jules Prown, 1982


During our discussions it was noted that designers and artists create the materials, surfaces and objects that are core to the ways in which we understand ourselves, and influence who we might become. It appeared that the exhibiting artists were trying to make sense of their own complex environments, and lives, through the intense process of making objects that represent how they see the world – but without considering a future audience.

Many of the students expressed a connection with the artists through the material artefacts. They felt the objects had emotional potency, and positioned their own interpretations as dynamic, and the perceptions of the objects as multifaceted and endless.

Lastly, ‘confinement’, ‘solitude’ and ‘passing time or waiting’ were written down. Was this the way of imagining the artists’ world, or the lived experience of the student in the gallery?



Jules Prown, Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method

Emerging Digital-Materiality   http://digitalpresent.myblog.arts.ac.uk/2013/05/28/emerging-digital-materiality-workshop/

MA Textile Futures   http://www.csm.arts.ac.uk/courses/ma-textile-futures/

MA Innovation Management   http://www.csm.arts.ac.uk/courses/ma-innovation-management/