Tuesday, 29 March 2011

'SENSE' - Annie Cattrell (2001-2003)

As this is my first post I'll prattle on about my favourite piece of art about science. It's basically a series of five resin sculptures that illustrate the different parts of the brain that each of your senses activate (touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste). They're based on real brain scans from a real live volunteer.

According to the Wellcome Collection website (where you can see these sculptures) 'The elegant simplicity of the sculptures belies the complexity of the technology required to make them'.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I think they're not only interesting to look at but I really like the fact there's so much space within each block - nicely illustrating how specialised the different brain regions are.

I also like them because when you look at each one in turn you can visualise where the activated bits are in the brain. For example, you can see that with 'hearing' each side of the brain is activated by your ears, and with 'sight' the area at the back (your visual cortex) is activated. Neuroscientists often end up looking at a lot of 2D pictures of different parts of the brain 'lit up', which makes it easy to forget that what you're staring at is in fact a slice of a much bigger 3D object. I like this idea because it means that the sculptures have the power to feedback into the science they came from; creating a two-way dialogue.


  1. I was watching a programme about the brain, and even though you obviously know how big a head is, and even a skull, I still find it stunning how big a brain is, and this piece really shows that. Plus, you may have expected all the sense parts to be together, but this must be due to the order in which they evolved. Really interesting, and rivals any abstract art.

  2. I love the brain. Isn't it weird though when you're holding a brain in your hands and then you realise, I have one of those in my head :-P xxx

  3. Oh Lauren, you're never going to let me live that down! It's true. It's very strange to study the brain for 4 years when all the time I've got one in my very own skull, ticking away, looking at pictures of brains. On another note, I thought perhaps I should mention that some people would say the sculptures are missing a few senses - but I left it out. I do wonder what proprioception would look like though!