We are thrilled to have such a diverse range of speakers joining us for the Congress for Curious People. See below for information about each of our contributors.
Chiara Ambrosio, Filmmaker and visual artist.
Chiara Ambrosio is a visual artist working with video and animation. Her work has included collaborations with performance artists, composers, musicians and writers, and has been shown in a number of venues including national and international film festivals, galleries and site specific events. She also runs The Light & Shadow Salon, a place for artists, writers and audience to meet and share ideas about the past, present and future of the moving image in all its forms.
Bergit Arends, independent curator, London.
Bergit Arends was Curator of Contemporary Art at the Natural History Museum in London from 2005 to June 2013 where she curated a number of major exhibitions, commissioned works, and created an international artists-in-residence programme. Highlights of her tenure include the exhibition Lucy + Jorge Orta: Amazonia, shown as part of International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, Mark Dion: Systema Metropolis (2007) and, in 2006, The Ship: The Art of Climate Change in partnership with Cape Farewell. In 2009 she commissioned artist Tania Kovats to create a new permanent art installation for the Museum’s iconic Central Hall to mark the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. In the same year she also curated the exhibition After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions and edited the accompanying publication Expressions: From Darwin to Contemporary Arts, including writing by Antonio Damasio and Mark Haddon. She also enabled artists’ residencies at the Museum, notably Tessa Farmer, Chinese artist Hu Yun, Australian artist Daniel Boyd, and Indian artist Sunoj D.
From 1999 to 2004 she managed the science and art funding programme at the Wellcome Trust. As part of the programme, she co-edited the publications Experiment: conversations in art and science (2003) and Talking back to Science: art, science, and the personal (2004).
Most recently she co-curated with Greg Hilty Galápagos (2012 to 2013), a touring group show of 13 artists’ works to re-imagine the ‘enchanted isles’ based on research they undertook on the Ecuadorian archipelago.
Bergit Arends studied Curating of Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art in London (1995 to 1997) and will take up a research position in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway University of London from September 2013.
Dr. Richard Barnett, Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow.
Richard Barnett studied medicine in London before becoming a historian. He has taught the history of science, medicine and evolutionary theory at the universities of Cambridge and London, and now holds one of the first Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowships. His first book, Medical London: City of Diseases, City of Cures, was published in 2008, and was a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, and The Dedalus Book of Gin (published in the US by Grove Atlantic) is out now. His next book – The Sick Rose, on nineteenth-century medical illustration – will be published by Thames & Hudson in the autumn. His writing has also appeared in the London Review of Books, The Lancet, Strange Attractor, Curiocity, and the Natural Death Handbook (fifth edition). He spends his time writing, walking, talking and broadcasting his way around the history of life and death.
Aaron Beebe, Curator, Coney Island Museum.
Dr. Gavin Broad, Senior Curator, Hymenoptera, Natural History Museum, London.
Brian Catling, artist, London.
Stephen Coates, musician, The Real Tuesday Weld, London.
Dr. Tim Cockerill, artist and zoologist, London.
Tim is a Zoologist based at the University of Cambridge, but has, for the past ten years, worked as a circus and sideshow performer. When not eating fire or walking on broken glass, he spends half of each year in the jungles of Borneo collecting weird and wonderful insects for scientific study.
Eleanor Crook, sculptor and medical artist, London.
Eleanor Crook trained in sculpture at Central St Martins and the Royal Academy and makes figures and effigies in wax, carved wood and lifelike media. She has also made a special study of anatomy and has sculpted anatomical and pathological waxworks for the Gordon Museum of Pathology at Guy’s Hospital, London’s Science Museum, and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. She exhibits internationally in both fine art and science museum contexts. She learned the technique of forensic facial reconstruction modelling from Richard Neave and has demonstrated and taught this to artists, forensic anthropology students, law enforcement officers and plastic surgeons as well as incorporating this practice in her own sculpted people.
Following a lifelong interest in Northern Renaissance woodcarving, and influenced by the experience of dissecting in order to learn anatomy, she studied limewood carving at the Geisler-Moroder wood carving school in the Austrian Tyrol. In the interest of making figures more lifelike than the living, using a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust she developed the incorporation of electronic animatronics systems into the sculptures so that her moribund and macabre creations now can twitch and mutter.
Eleanor is artist in residence at the Gordon Museum of Pathology, a member of the Medical Artists’ Association, runs a course in Anatomy drawing at the Royal College of Art and lectures on the M. A. Art & Science course at Central St Martins School of Art in London.
Subhadra Das, Curator, UCL Teaching & Research Collections (Biomedical and Galton).
Subhadra Das has worked for UCL Museums since 2005, starting out as museum trainee at the Petrie Museum. Since then she has also worked at UCL Art Museum and on the Collections Review. She is now one of a team of curators working with the teaching and research at UCL, and is the primary contact for UCL Pathology Collections and the Galton Collection.
Cecile Dubuis, artistic gothic librarian, UCL.
Cecile’s dissertation for her Masters in Librarianship was written in 2004 and entitled ‘Libraries and the Occult’. In 2007 she delivered two talks at Treadwell’s bookshop entitled ‘Dangerous Books, Hidden Knowledge’ and ‘Demons and Vellum: The Keepers of Occult Books in Libraries Today’. Last summer she joined with Christina Oakley Harrington to conduct a talk about ‘Magical Bloomsbury’. Her dissertation is available on www.morbidfrog.co.uk. Cecile is currently working at UCL Main library.
Joanna Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy Library, Brooklyn.
Joanna Ebenstein runs the Morbid Anatomy Blog and the related Morbid Anatomy Library where her privately held collection of curiosities, books, photographs, artworks, ephemera, and artifacts relating to medical museums and the overlaps of art and medicine, death and culture are made available by appointment. She is co-founder of The Congress for Curious Peoples as well as the founding member of Observatory, an event and exhibition space dedicated to the 18th century principles of rational amusement based in Brooklyn, New York.
Tessa Farmer, artist, London.
Will Fowler, Curator of artists’ moving image, BFI, National Arhives
Alison Gill, artist, London.
Richard Grayson, artist, London.
Dr. Christina Harrington, Director of Treadwell’s Bookshop.
“Professor” Mervyn Heard, professional lanternist, London.
Mervyn Heard stages unusual magic lantern shows using original Victorian hand-painted lantern slides and an old showman’s projector. He has performed at London venues as varied as the Little Shop of Horrors in Hackney and the Royal Opera House; created an installation for the Gothic Nightmares exhibition at Tate Britain and is the author of ‘Phantasmagoria – The Secret Life of the Magic Lantern’.
Claire and Bob Humm, artists, Hastings
Dr. James Kennaway, Durham University.
Dr James Kennaway is a historian of medicine at Durham University working on the history of psychiatry. His book Bad Vibrations: The History of the Idea of Music as a Cause of Disease was published in 2012. He has previously worked or studied in Oxford, Stanford, Vienna, Berlin, LSE, UCLA and King’s College, London.
Dr. Petra Lange-Berndt, Lecturer, Department of History of Art, UCL.
Ethel Le Rossignol, medium and artist, London.
Dr. Matt Lodder, Art Historian, London.
Art Macabre are innovators of London’s “death drawing”salons, founded and directed by cultural producer Nikki Shaill aka nocturnal ring mistress Raven Rouge. Art Macabre present regular drawing salons and participatory installations in London and beyond, injecting a lethal dose of curiosity and theatricality back into drawing. Since 2010, their unique events have explored themes of death through the nude human form, costume, props, performance, music and narrative; from funerary ritual to folklore, memento mori to mythology, dissection to dance of death. Salons have taken place at Museum of London, Barts Pathology Museum, festivals and in forests. They believe in the power of drawing and hope to prove that picking up a pencil needn’t be frightening. Find them on twitter @ArtMacabreLDN.
Ross MacFarlane, Research Officer, Wellcome Library, London.
Ross MacFarlane is Research Engagement Officer in the Wellcome Library, where he is heavily involved in promoting the Library’s collections.
He has researched, lectured and written on such topics as the history of early recorded sound, the collection (and collectors) of Henry Wellcome and notions of urban folklore in Edwardian London. He has led guided walks around London on the occult past of Bloomsbury and on the intersection of medicine, science and trade in Greenwich and Deptford. His article on death, medicine and Robert Burns will be published in the forthcoming Morbid Anatomy Anthology.
Dr. Bill MacLehose, Lecturer in History of Science and Medicine, UCL.
Dr. Anna Maerker, Senior Lecturer, History of Medicine, King’s College London.
Dr. Anna Maerker is senior lecturer in the History of Medicine at King’s College, London. She is the author of Model Experts: Wax Anatomies and Enlightenment in Florence and Vienna, 1775 -1815.
Dr. Catriona McAra, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.
Dr Catriona McAra is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. She is editor of the forthcoming essay collection In Fairyland: The World of Tessa Farmer (Strange Attractor Press, 2014).
Dr. Robert Mills, Lecturer, Department of History of Art, UCL.
Eleanor Morgan, artist, London
Dr. Pat Morris, Lecturer in Zoology (retired), Royal Holloway, University of London, and mammal ecologist.
Alex Murray, Assistant Librarian and Archivist at Swedenborg House.
Alex Murray is the Assistant Librarian and Archivist at the Swedenborg Society. He has worked in an assistant role with the curation and implementation of exhibitions and other events at Swedenborg House. His research interests include radical religious groups of the 19th century, social reformation and 19th century social history.
Mark Pilkington, writer and curator, London.
Dr. Emma Richardson, History of Art, UCL.
Prof. Dr. Dietmar Rübel, Art Historian, Art Academy Dresden.
Shannon Taggart, photographer/ independent researcher, Brooklyn.
Shannon Taggart is a photographer and independent researcher based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally.
She curates a lecture series about the science and aesthetics of the miraculous. Currently, she is working on a book about Spiritualism and physical mediumship.
Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of the National Fairground Archive, University of Sheffield.
Suzanne Treister, artist, London.
Dr. John Troyer, Deputy Director, Centre for Death and Society, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath.
John Troyer’s interdisciplinary research focuses on contemporary memorialisation practices, concepts of spatial historiography, and the dead body’s relationship with technology. Troyer is also a theatre director and installation artist with extensive experience in site-specific performance across the United States and Europe. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk website and a frequent commentator for the BBC. His forthcoming book, Technologies of the Human Corpse (published by the University of North Carolina Press), will appear in 2013.
One of his current projects, the Future Cemetery, is a Bristol based AHRC REACT Heritage collaboration between Arnos Vale Cemetery, Calling the Shots media, and the Centre for Death and Society. The Future Cemetery can be followed on Twitter and on Facebook.
Carla Valentine, Curator of Barts Pathology Museum.
Kelly Walker, local history tour guide, Blackpool.
Prof. Dr. Robert J. Wallis, Visual Culture, Richmond University.
Dr. Simon Werrett, Lecturer, Science and Technology Studies, UCL.
Simon Werrett explores the changing relations of the arts and sciences through topics such as the history of fireworks, the history of recycling, and the history of spectacle. He is the author of Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in European History (Chicago University Press, 2010). Since 2012 he has been a member of the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. Previously he spent ten years in the Department of History at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Dr. Philip Young, Librarian, Warburg Institute, London.