Severed Sculptures: Roderick Tye’s ‘The Human Presence’ at UCL Art Museum, London

Roderick Tye, Head, c.1990’s wax © The Artist’s Estate

Roderick Tye, Head, c.1990’s wax © The Artist’s Estate

Roderick Tye: The Human Presence
Monday 28 September – Friday 18 December 2015
UCL Art Museum, South Cloisters, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, London
Mon-Fri, 1pm-5pm. Free Admission

“Blood red wax catching the light, sinewy torsos dripping with life, earth toned bronzes in states of agony and ecstasy.”

That’s certainly one way of describing UCL Art Museum‘s latest exhibition. ‘The Human Presence’ is the first major re-examination of the work of Roderick Tye (1959-2009), a sculptor passionate about the visceral nature of human existence. Shown alongside his expressive head studies in charcoal, Tye’s wax and bronze head sculptures are severed from their bodies and mounted on metal spikes.

Interspersed with medical samples from UCL’s pathology collections and drawings from its art holdings, the displays are welcome to artists and sketchers.

Roderick Tye, Head, c 1990’s bronze © The Artist’s Estate

Roderick Tye, Head, c 1990’s bronze © The Artist’s Estate

The exhibition is curated by the Slade School of Fine Art in collaboration with UCL Art Museum, UCL Pathology Collections, and the Anatomy Laboratory (UCL Department of Cell and Developmental Biology). Displays feature large-scale anatomical drawings by Charles Bell, UCL’s first Professor of Anatomy in the 1830s and samples from UCL’s teaching collections, including wax models and human tissue remains.

A public programme of events, talks and workshops will complement the exhibition and will invite attendees to explore, engage with and discuss the work and its themes.

For more information visit www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/uclart/whats-on

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The Spooky Saturday Collection: October 2014

This October saw the start of Spooky Saturday on Facebook and Twitter; a collection of some the most gruesome anatomical artworks I’ve curated through the year.

In the lead up to Halloween, we looked a one piece in all it’s grisly glory each weekend and rated it on the ‘Spooky Scale’.

So, which is the winner? Let’s put it to a vote.

Take a look at the four artworks below and cast your vote in the poll!

 

 1. 'Dissection of a pharynx affected by abscess, shown at post-mortem' from 'Principles of Surgery' by John Bell, 1801.

1. ‘Dissection of a pharynx affected by abscess, shown at post-mortem’ from ‘Principles of Surgery’ by John Bell, 1801.

 

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2. ‘Bone neoplasms on the skull’ from ‘Anatomie pathologique du corps humain’ by Jean Cruveilhier, 1829.

 

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3. Illustration by Max Brödel which was featured in a 1932 article which described “surgical procedures on the eye of a rabbit, illustrating anatomical parts”.

 

'Head and skull of malformed infants; conjoined twins, bilateral cleft lip and holoprosencephaly' from 'Surgical Anatomy' by Joseph Maclise, 1856.

4.’Head and skull of malformed infants; conjoined twins, bilateral cleft lip and holoprosencephaly’ from ‘Surgical Anatomy’ by Joseph Maclise, 1856.

 

Hydrocephalus: Cerebrospinal Fluid and a Curious Condition

Prof. Jas. Mundie
Copyright: Prof Jas. Mundie

Although I have previously posted about hydrocephalus on the Facebook page’s ‘Fact of the Day’, I was inspired to discover more about this distinctive condition after a recent visit to Surgeon’s Hall Museum, Edinburgh. Full of fascinating pathological specimens, the congenital hydrocephalic infant skulls on display are hard to miss with their domed craniums, characteristic of bodies more alien than our own.

The term hydrocephalus comes from the Greek words ‘hydro’ meaning water  and ‘cephalus’ meaning head. Translated literally, it means ‘water on the brain’. Hydrocephalus is in fact a build up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain.

10 Facts About Cerebrospinal Fluid

  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear, colourless liquid that fills and surrounds the brain and the spinal cord, acting as a lubricator against bone and a shock absorber against trauma to our body’s most important system
  • It is formed primarily in the ventricles of the brain and circulates via a series of chambers
  • It helps to maintain a constant pressure within the cranium by decreasing in levels as the volume of blood or brain tissue increases and vice versa
  • When cerebrospinal fluid is in excess, it is moved away from the brain by absorption into the bloodstream by a specialised tissue called the arachnoid villi which act as a one way valve
  • It transports metabolic waste products, antibodies, chemicals, and products of disease away from the brain and spinal cord into the bloodstream
  • It has a slightly alkaline pH
  • It is about 99% water.
  • There are approximately 100-150ml of CSF in the average adult human body
  • It is produced continuously, and it is completely replaced every six to eight hours
  • Analysis of CSF can diagnose a number of diseases. Samples can be obtained by lumbar puncture or spinal tap by inserting a needle into the lumbar region of the lower back

Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus can develop where there is a blockage in one of the ventricles, preventing excess CSF from moving out of the brain, where the arachnoid villi aren’t functioning properly and CSF is unable to filter into the blood vessels or, in some rare cases,  when the brain produces too much CSF.

Joakim BlockstromCopyright: Joakim Blockstrom

Congenital hydrocephalus can occur due to the restriction of flow of CSF caused by brain defects in the developing baby which can be due to certain health conditions like the most serious type of spina bifida. It can also occur in premature babies which experience bleeding in their brain, blocking the flow of CSF and causing hydrocephalus. Other potential causes include X-linked hydrocephalus where the condition occurs as a result of a genetic mutation, rare genetic disorders such as Dandy Walker malformation and arachnoid cysts between the brain or spinal cord and the arachnoid membrane.

Acquired hydrocephalus which develops in adults or children is most often occurs by injury or illness that results in a blockage between the ventricles of the brain. Possible causes include bleeding inside the brain, blood clots inside the blood vessels of the brain, meningitis, tumours, head trauma and stroke.

Anatomical abnormalities
The physical symptoms of hydrocephalus are distinctive, but can vary with age, tolerance and progression of the disease. The characteristic, unusually large cranium is caused by the infant skull’s ability to expand to accommodate the build up of excess CSF. The sutures of the skull, which are not yet closed, provide the flexibility in the cranium to ‘grow’ with the expanding volume. The scalp may be thin with visible veins and the fontanelle (soft spot on the top of a baby’s head) may be tense or bulging. The eyes can also appear to be looking downwards due to nerve damage which can affect the muscles of the eye.

skull-of-a-newbornCopyright: A.D.A.M

Treatment
Without treatment, it is thought that up to 6 in 10 people with hydrocephalus would die. However, most children with hydrocephalus that survive past the age of one will have a fairly normal life span. Patients usually require prompt treatment to reduce the pressure on their brain either by neuroendoscopy or shunt surgery which involves implanting a thin tube into the brain to run the excess cerebrospinal fluid to another part of the body, usually the abdomen, where it can be absorbed into the blood stream.

hydroassoc.orgCopyright:  Hydrocephalus Association

Resources & further reading:

www.hcrn.org
www.hydroassoc.org
www.shinecharity.org.uk
www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hydrocephalus
www.hydroresearchfund.org/learn-about-hydrocephalus
www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1116/mainpageS1116P1.html
www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail_hydrocephalus.htm
www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/103430/cerebrospinal-fluid-CSF

Virtual Autopsy: The Decline of Forensic Dissection?

severed spineThe body of a 50-year-old man run over by a train. Via The Guardian

Gone are the days of forensic autopsy whereby the only means for determining cause of death were by cutting into the cadaver of the victim. Swiss researchers at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich have developed a powerful and pioneering method of virtual imaging, never used in post mortem before; Virtopsy. Prof. Richard Dirnhofer initiated the Virtopsy project several years ago and now, along with operative head of the group Prof. Michael Thali, runs the applied research team which has been operating from the University in Switzerland since 2011.

Combining the uses of optical 3D surface scanning, 3D-photogrammetry, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, virtual autopsy is a technique that could not be further from traditional methods of the historical figures of medicine. Virtopsy allows the indefinite storage of collected images and data from the subject which can be re-examined, replicated and distributed at any time, allowing greater accessibility other experts in the field across disciplines and indeed locations. These techniques can be used in living patients to avoid invasive procedures, but the ground breaking aspects of Dirnhofer and Thali’s work lies in the forensic mortuary. Biological tissues, their decomposition and sometimes lack of reliability cannot compete with the ‘snapshot’ evidence taken by these methods, allowing findings to be shared in legal and court cases in a much more modern and interactive way.

The technology allows for the preservation of the deceased in a digital form, escaping the destruction of tissues caused during investigation and decomposition and allows access to areas of a cadaver which may not always prove accessible or appropriate to dissection. For example, the distribution of gas throughout the body is not often observed by the naked eye in traditional autopsy, but with this new technique, gaseous pockets and bubbles can be located quite clearly. It is also of great benefit to forensic autopsy when determining injury from attack by weapons. Scrolling through the layered depths of the victim allows for calculation of weapon length in stab wounds much easier than by traditional methods.

Understandably, virtual autopsy is warmly welcomed by certain religious communities and the families of the deceased who favour this non-invasive method. For the relatives, it allows peace of mind for the dignity and state bodies of their loved ones who have in most circumstances already been through a traumatising and unsettling ordeal.

Given that a deal of technological retraining would be required by investigators if virtual autopsy was rolled out and became a more common means of exploration, would this modern day approach favour the younger generation of forensic professionals? Will virtual autopsies replace traditional forensic examination over time? It is a welcome addition complementary to current investigation, but should we rely completely on such detached methods? Can anything substitute real, hands on exploration of the human body, no matter how advanced the technology and results may be?

Further reading:
www.virtopsy.com
www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/feb/23/virtual-autopsy-virtopsy-forensic-science
www.independent.co.uk/news/science/body-of-evidence-a-radical-new-approach-to-forensic-pathology-1987389.html
www.spiegel.de/international/europe/new-virtual-autopsy-procedure-is-changing-forensics-a-8756