ABNORMAL

Room 147

Images of medical research scientists are often very cliched - the white man in the white coat holding the test tube which contains the meaning of life, or looking down a microscope to see further than ordinary mortals ever will.

In reality, research lab environments are similar to office environments. As Malcolm Logan says: "You get the same 'water cooler gossip', the same personalising of the work environment - this might entail placing a furry toy on the end of a test-tube rack rather than a biro, but the principle is the same." Scientists do not see themselves as gods, but as workers much like any others.

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As digital imaging technology has advanced, colour is being used increasingly to make the invisible visible when presenting medical research scientists' findings from their laboratory experiments. Colouring of images to show, for example, 'abnormal' cells in bright colours has become extremely common.

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Artist David Batchelor has written in Chromophobia that, in the classical tradition, bright colours have traditionally been associated with "the feminine, the oriental, the primitive, the infantile, the vulgar, the queer or the pathological" (pp22-23). In the classical palette, muted colours reflect the belief in the importance of the rational mind and the restrained body.

Artists working within the theories and traditions of the international disability arts movement often use bright colours, though. These artists celebrate the irrational mind and the unrestrained body, and their colour palettes echo this.

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© Ju Gosling aka ju90 2008

Funded by the
wellcome trust

 


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