Trust Me, I’m an Artist - Exhibition

Trust Me, I’m an Artist is a group exhibition of nine artists’ works that examine ethical complexities of medicine and biotechnology. The artworks variously engage with gene editing, human tissue culture, the commons of nuclear materials, trans-species communication, the smuggling of biomaterials across continents, fear of contamination associated with the sick body, and the relation between rituals of self-healing and personalised medicine.

It includes documentation of Martin O’Brien’s performance event Taste of Flesh / Bite Me, I’m Yours, commissioned by Arts Catalyst, in which the artist highlights public anxiety around the risk of infection and the surge in depictions of the zombie in popular culture.

Most of the artworks were commissioned as a series of performative events that took place between 2015 and 2017. During these events, the artists were invited to propose and present an artwork that would raise an issue of ethical complexity in front of an audience and a specially convened ethics committee. The committee then deliberated and discussed their decisions with the artist and audience.

The artists and collaborators are Martin O’Brien (GB), Gina Czarnecki (GB) & John Hunt (GB), Anna Dumitriu (GB), Špela Petrič (SLO), Jennifer Willet (CAN) & Kira O’Reilly (GB/FIN) and Howard Boland (GB), Erich Berger (AT/FIN) & Mari Keto (FIN). The artworks were in part commissioned by the projects Trust Me, I’m an Artist, except for those of Erich Berger & Mari Keto and Howard Boland.

The artworks were commissioned by Arts Catalyst, Medical Museion, Kapelica Gallery and Waag Society. Trust Me, I'm an Artist is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

The exhibition is curated by Anna Dumitriu and Lucas Evers, and the project partners Nicola Triscott, Louise Emma Whiteley and Jurij Krpan.

Opening event: 1 – 6 pm, Sat 13 May 2017

1 – 2 pm: Walking lunch and welcome
2 – 4 pm: Statements and discussion
4 – 6 pm: Official opening and drinks


Martin O'Brien is a performance artist whose work and research is concerned with physical endurance, hardship and excess in relation to illness and medicine. Through an engagement with his body in extremis, as one with a severe chronic illness - cystic fibrosis - he explores issues of pain and medicine, discipline, abjection and body politics. As part of the EU project 'Trust Me, I'm an Artist: towards an ethis of Art/Science collaboration', O'Brien will present performance work and discuss the ethical issues with experts drawn from performance art, medicine and bioethics.
Gina Czarnecki is a British new media artist born in Immingham in 1965. She studied painting and film-making at Wimbledon School of Art 1984-87 and a Postgraduate Degree in Electronic Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College Dundee from 1991-2. Her work spans a variety of mediums, including film, video, sculpture and installation art. Through a varied and often unconventional practice her work engages us with the visceral, psychological and biological grey areas, hybrids and developments that provoke questions on so many levels. Her research focuses on technologies and culture.
Dr. John Hunt is a professor of Clinical Sciences and director of the U.K. Centre for Tissue Engineering. John's research focuses on developing breakthrough therapies, devices and technology to repair, replace, augment and regenerate diseased, infected and damaged tissues in humans using material interventions. For Trust Me, I'm an Artist, Dr. Hunt is working with artist, Gina Czarnecki on the project, Heirloom. The project aims to 'grow skin portraits' of the Czarnecki's daughters from their own cells onto traditionally produced glass casts of their faces.
Kira O'Reilly is a performance artist, who graduated from the Cardiff School of Art in 1998. Between 2003 and 2004, O'Reilly undertoook a residency with SymbioticA, a bio-art project based in the department of Human Anatomy at The University of Western Australia.
Dr. Jennifer Willet is an internationally successful artist in the emerging field of BioArt. Her work resides at the intersection of art and science and explores notions of representation, the body, ecologies and interspecies interrelations in the biotechnological field.
Špela Petrič is a Slovenian new media artist and scientific researcher currently based in Amsterdam, NL. Her artistic practice combines natural science, new media and performance. She is interested in all aspects of anthropocentrism: the reconstruction and reappropriation of scientific methodology in the context of cultural phenomena; living systems in connection to inanimate systems manifesting life-like properties; and terRabiology: an ontological view of the evolution and terraformative process on Earth. She extends her artistic research with art/sci workshops devoted to informing and sensitizing the interested public, particularly younger generations.
Erich Berger is an artist, curator and cultural worker based in Helsinki. His interests lie in information processes and feedback structures, which he investigates through installations, performances and interfaces. Throughout his artist practice he has explored the materiality of information and information and technology as artistic material. His current interest in issues of deep time and hybrid ecology led him to work with geological processes, radiogenic ohenomena and their socio-political implications in the here and now. Mari Keto explores the limits of artificats by combining jewellery materials in her installations and portraits. In Keto's work both the conceptual underpinning and a high degree of craftsmanship merge into an artwork. Keto's work is strongly research-based. She engages with her subject matter from various perspectives in order to define her own. Keto explores the tensions and structures of our contemporary culture by portraying icons and symbols predominantly surrounding us. Deriving from cultural histories and pop culture her work examines the distinctions between value and consumption. Keto's multi-layered works contain intemperate realism mixed with humor and irony.
Dr. Howard Boland is a multidisciplinary research-based artist working with biological and digital media. His innovative research in synthetic biology has produced novel visual expressions in bacteria culminating in the UK's first ever art exhibition featuring living genetically modified microorganisms. He is co-director and co-founder of the internationally recognised art-science collective and organisation C-LAB and his interdisciplinary artworks have been exhibited and presented worldwide. With strong technical and creative skills, his experience spans from artistic to scientific contexts where he has led award-winning projects.
Anna Dumitriu is a British artist whose work fuses craft, sculpture and bioscience to explore our relationship to the microbial world, technology and biomedicine. She has an international exhibition profile, having exhibited at venues including The Picasso Museum in Barcelona, The Science Gallery in Dublin, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Taipei, and The V & A Museum in London. 
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Martin O'Brien: Taste of Flesh/Bite Me I'm Yours

A new performance work by Martin O'Brien, to be presented as part of the ongoing European project - 'Trust me, I'm an Artist: towards an ethics of art/science collaboration'.

'Trust me, I'm an Artist' is a European initiative exploring ethical issues in art that enage with biotechnology and medicine, such as medical self-experimentation, extreme body art, and art practices using living materials and scientific process.

Martin O’Brien’s live art practice uses physical endurance, disgust and pain-based practices to explore the meaning of being born with a life threatening disease (cystic fibrosis) by confronting others’ responses to illness.

In this new durational performance,Taste of Flesh / Bite Me I'm Yours, commissioned by Arts Catalyst and hosted by SPACE c/o The White Building - O’Brien turns his attention to the fear of contamination associated with the sick body. In doing so, he highlights recent acute public anxiety around the risk of infection and the surge in depictions of the zombie in popular culture. The traditional sci-fi figure of contagion - the zombie often reflects environmental, political, or societal concerns, all of which are referenced in O'Briens new piece. O’Brien’s performance will be followed by a discussion with a specially convened ethics committee of Professor Karen Lowton (Department of Sociology, University of Sussex), Dr Gianna Bouchard (Department of Music and Performing Arts, Anglia Ruskin University), and Lois Keidan (Director, Live Art Development Agency), chaired by Professor Bobbie Farsides (Brighton and Sussex Medical School)



3pm - 6pm Performance by Martin O'Brien * (Free, drop in)
6pm - 7pm Break
7pm - 8.30pm Panel discussion and Q&A (Booking required, £5)

* This is a durational performance, audience members are welcome to stay for the duration however can also enter /leave when they wish.



This event is commissioned and produced by Arts Catalyst in cooperation with SPACE c/o the White Building. The project 'Trust Me I’m an Artist: Towards an Ethics of Art/Science Collaboration' is led by artist Anna Dumitriu in collaboration with Professor Bobbie Farsides in collaboration with the Waag Society. Taste of Flesh/Bite Me I'm Yours by Martin O'Brien forms part of Jareh Das's research into perceptions of pain in performance, audience witnessing and ethics, in collaboration with Arts Catalyst.

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Specimens and Superhumans

A series of events exploring contemporary issues around biomedical science, disability and ethics, and how these are explored, represented and critiqued in art.

Specimens to Superhumans was a series of four events curated by The Arts Catalyst and Shape.  The events provided creative opportunities to show the work of and to provide mentoring, development and networking opportunities for disabled artists.

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits considered specimens and curiosities through infiltrating and responding to the exotic and disturbing collection of London’s Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. With Aaron Williamson, Sinéad O'Donnell, Brian Catling and Katherine Araniello

Alternative Ways of Thinking

At a time when the media frequently feature stories about screening for or even ‘curing’ autism, presenting it as an affliction or disease, this event explored and celebrated the special qualities of the autistic mind. With Simon Baron-CohenJon Adams, Gabriel Hardistry-Miller and Ben Connors.

Benedict Phillips unleashed his dyslexic side in his performance piece 3D Thinking in a 2D World.

"All that happened to us..."

An event exploring the implications of the biomechanics of ageing for contemporary dance practice with Ann Dickie, Anna BergströmTrevor Mathison, Professor Raymond Lee, Dr Siobhan Strike and Dr Jin Luo.

Bionic People

A two-day practical workshop with award-winning filmmaker John Williams creating short films that imaginatively address themes of disability, bioethics and prosthetics. This practical and inspiring two-day workshop gave disabled artists who already work with film/video and disabled emerging filmmakers an opportunity to explore and extend their work in these media.

Event Details

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits

Hunterian Museum, London 12 May 2011

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits considered specimens and curiosities through infiltrating and responding to the exotic and disturbing collection of London’s Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. The audience had the chance to explore the displays while encountering four simultaneous site-specific performances curated by Aaron Williamsion and commissioned by Shape and The Arts Catalyst to respond to the museum's permanent collection: Aaron Williamson, Sinéad O'Donnell, Brian Catling and Katherine Araniello. This was followed by a panel discussion. Artists Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araniello, were joined on the panel by Brian Hurwitz, D’Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts at Kings College, and Sam Alberti, Director of the Hunterian Museum, for a discussion about the historical representation of disability and contemporary approaches taken by the medical community, chaired by the Richard Hollingham.

Full-length panel discussion could be seen in the videos below:

Alternative Ways of Thinking

Cheltenham Science Festival, 10 June 2011

Exploring the Autistic Mind 

At a time when the media frequently feature stories about screening for or even ‘curing’ autism, presenting it as an affliction or disease, this event explores the special qualities of the autistic mind. Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre, discusses creativity and the autistic mind with artist and geologist, Jon Adams, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, Gabriel Hardistry-Miller, a non-verbal young man with autism who, with artist Ben Connors, runs a music, performance and poetry club.

Gabriel & Ben's video- How We Met can be viewed here:

Benedict Phillips, 3D Thinkers in a 2D World

In this humorous and thought-provoking performance, artist Benedict Phillips unleashes his dyslexic side as ‘The DIV’ highlighting and examining our presumptions about intelligence, communication and perception, unravelling the numerous misconceptions surrounding dyslexia and presenting the unusual advantages it brings.

"All that happened to us..."

Roehampton University Dance Faculty, London, Thursday 22 September 2011

An event exploring the implications of the biomechanics of ageing for contemporary dance practice. 

 While traditional dance science looks at how to enable an elite dancer to achieve perfection in both performance and aesthetics, this participative event will seek to explore what we can learn from the science of ageing about how a disabled or older dancer’s body works and what they need in order to perform to full capacity and to unlock their body’s full potential.For both older and disabled dancers, achieving elite standards may be neither possible nor what they are striving for, and this event explored the nuances between the social model of disability and the medical model of ageing, to see what common ground emerges.

The collaborative event, hosted by the University, was led by choreographers Ann Dickie, Director of From Here to Maturity Dance Company and Anna Bergström, Associate Artist at Candoco Dance Company, audio and digital artist, Trevor Mathison. Drawing from expertise across Roehampton UniversityProfessor Raymond Lee and his colleagues Dr Siobhan Strike and Dr Jin Luo from the Active Ageing Unit at Life Sciences Department also participated in the event. We are grateful for the support of Roehampton University’s Dance Faculty and for the input from Louise Portlock and Frank McDaniels from Gloucestershire Dance.

Bionic People

Two-day filmmaking workshop for disabled artists and filmmakers, part of DadaFest,  30-31 July 2012

John Williams, a writer/director with over 10 years experience, whose films combine live action, animation and visual effects, engagingly dealing with highly sensitive subjects, including mental health (‘Robots’), young children dealing with the death of a friend (‘Hibernation’) and a child’s complex feelings towards his robotic dialysis machine (‘Paraphernalia’), led the two day practical workshop.
Gary Thomas from Disability Arts Online attended the workshop and created this film.


Shape, Hunterian Museum, Cheltenham Science Festival, Roehampton University, DadaFest


Funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award, and Arts Council England


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SpaceBaby, London Fieldworks

SpaceBaby was a performance-installation and lab in action performed during Space Soon at the Roundhouse.

SpaceBaby - performance installation and lab in action. A new video work Spacebaby: Guinea Pigs Don't Dream incorporated images from the experiment.

SpaceBaby was performed at SPACE SOON at the Roundhouse in London, September 8-13, 2006, in collaboration with the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester.

SpaceBaby was the first in a trilogy of works by London Fieldworks exploring the theme of hibernation and suspended animation in the form of a performance installation and lab in action. The project referenced the vested interest of space agencies into the possibility of human hibernation and acknowledged fictional representations of human hibernation within science fiction writing and film. The artists inverted their sleeping patterns and slept within the installation during exhibition opening hours. In the context of SpaceBaby, a parallel was drawn between shiftworkers and astronauts on long haul space missions. The lab-in-action was manned by a team of geneticists who examinined the effects of disrupted sleep upon whole genome, gene expression, with a particular interest in individuals undertaking shiftwork. Blood samples were periodically extracted from the sleep inverted artists and processed within the installation using Affymetrix gene chip Technology. The processing of the samples resulted in a series of images depicting the gene expression of disrupted sleep and were incorporated into the video work, SPACEBABY: Guinea Pigs Don’t Dream.

SpaceBaby: Guinea Pigs Don't Dream - video work

SpaceBaby is a 20-minute semi-fictional video journey into genetic space. It is the latest addition to London Fieldworks’ Hibernator, a trilogy of installation and video works connecting myth and science, environmental cues and technological control, the virtual worlds we imagine and the real world we cannot escape. It mixes laboratory procedure with physical performance, CGI, narrative and sound. Human guinea pigs, fruit flies and lab rats are seen inhabiting a hallucinatory 24-hour world where night and day are interchangeable.

Working with writer Ken Hollings and composer Dugal McKinnon, London Fieldworks artists Jo Joelson and Bruce Gilchrist have used documentary footage of the live SpaceBaby experiment, along with resulting data and footage shot around the capital. The narrative is played out in a world where everyone on earth appears to have fallen into a sleep-like trance. Has the whole planet stopped moving or merely its inhabitants?

The film was premiered at Whitechapel Art Gallery, 4 June 2008

Funders & Sponsors

The SpaceBaby experiment and installation at Space Soon was funded by Arts Council England and supported by AHRC, University of Leicester, Affymetrix and Ambion

The SpaceBaby video work was Funded by Arts & Business (New Partners Award), AHRC and Arts Council England and sponsored by Affymextrix, Ambion, with collaborative support from Department of Genetics at University of Leicester.

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Sky Writing

Artists’ Airshow was an experimental day of art and flying in and around Europe's largest wind tunnel. Airshow used the now deserted research facility where supersonic flight was developed and the ghosts of sixties rocket projects linger.

Concluding the day with Anne Bean literally created a spectacular drawing for the sky, using balloons, parachute flares and small rockets, in collaboration with pyrotechnicians Mark Anderson and Nick Sales.

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