20 June 2016
I was in London last week for a friend’s wedding, which gave me some time to wander. I ended up going to have a look at the Wellcome collection in Euston Rd. It is a library, museum and art gallery that was set up with funding from the estate of Sir Henry Wellcome, an early pharmacist and philanthropist, who acquired a large collection of medical memorabilia.
It was a fascinating experience and underscored again the value of standing back and looking at our profession from a distance. It was great to see amulets and iron chastity belts, Napoleon’s toothbrush and old surgical saws all juxtaposed. What really drew me in though was a permanent exhibition called ‘Medicine now.’ It explored a number of issues in medicine and invited artistic responses to those. I was struck by an all-white library stack full of plain white books that reached from the floor to the ceiling. It contained a printout of the entire human genome. There was also elaborate glass blowing of an HIV virus, which made something beautiful out of something that is usually associated with the opposite within medicine. If you are ever in London it is well worth a visit and if not then you can always take a look on the website at www.wellcomecollection.org. I’d love to see something similar in New Zealand one day.
Brad Novak is a public health physician with a successful career as a visual artist. And many of you will have heard of Chris Reid’s book, Patient, which contains a selection of beautifully captured photographs of his patients. Both of them are preparing something for the MSP website as well. I always think that writing and the visual arts are joined at the hip; they share some sort of evolutionary ancestor of the imagination, as does science itself. So don’t be put off if you also work the visual arts and want to send some of your work into the MSP. Painting, drawing, sculpture, graphic design, installation are all ways of telling stories. We’d love to have a look at what you do.