Upcoming Wonder Season and the Brainwaves Weekender @ The Barbican

 

wonder
Personally, I’m rather keen on brains and brain-related things. So it’ll probably come as no surprise that I’m rather excited about the Barbican’s upcoming Wonder Festival devoted to the mind, including a weekend (March 2nd-3rd)  focused on all things brainy. Ahead of the British Neuroscience Association’s festival at the Barbican in April, this season throughout March and April looks to explore the much intertwined relationship between neuroscience and the arts, through a series of talks, workshops, film showings, comedy, theatre and music events. It’s a collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, who were also behind that rather brilliant Brains exhibition last year.

Amongst the events on over the season are a few crafty sessions to help people get creative as they get to grips with a bit of neuroanatomy, including sessions where you can knit a neuron and dissect a jelly brain. I’m not sure if these events are more aimed at kids,  but they sound right up my street. Ruby Wax is doing a talk on her experiences of depression, there are showing suitably mind-related films (including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind), amongst many other things. Another rather trusting looking event is ‘The Salon Project‘, an interactive theatrical experience where “You will be costumed in full period evening dress before emerging into a mirrored impression of a 19th-century Parisian salon. As you mingle with guests, pioneers in their fields will provoke discussion, speaking on subjects at the vanguard of 21st-century thought: science, politics, technology and the arts.” Which sounds wonderfully bizarre. I love this entire theme, involving science and art in a way that can get people to think (ha) about the brain and how they interact with their world, in new and creative ways.Watch this space for a report after I’ve been!


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Gifts for Brain Enthusiasts #2 (Birthday Edition)

Time for more neurologically-relevant items, given people seemed to like the first set so much. Recently it was my birthday. I’m struggled to come to terms with my transition to ‘adulthood’ and the realisation that I may have peaked, cognitively (indeed, I think I may actually have peaked around the time I sat my AS Levels aged 17, and been on a decline ever since).

Anyway, the occasion was made all the sweeter for some fantastic presents some lovely people got me. They seem to know what I like.

Asylum – The photographs of Christopher Payne

I’m something of an amateur urbex-er and I’ve always loved the old hospitals and asylums the best. This beautiful book is full of photos of america’s old mental hospitals. Beautiful and haunting, the buildings are often derelict, left to be recalimed by nature. These images seem at once strange and startling, they serve as a reminder of the dark places psychiatry has come from. Also includes a moving introduction from the wonderful Oliver Sacks.

Usborne’s See Inside Your Head

This book may technically be aimed at a younger audience, but I’m pretty thrilled with it. So many flaps to lift! Hours of entertainment here. If I ever get a job in paediatric neuro, I may take it into work.

Old anatomical print 

Isn’t this just exquisite? This wonderful print of the inferior view of the brain is about to gain a proud place on my wall. I’d say an old print makes a really good gift for any fans of the biological sciences, there are some really beautiful and intricate ones out there. One of my best friends found this for me at an antiques market, apparently it’s over 170 years old! It’s been cut from a book and is a bit crumbly on the edges. You can find similar items on ebay too.

Yes, I’m a massive nerd and I have a rather limited set of interests. Stay tuned for part three…

Mysteries of the abandoned brain lab

I already posted a link to this on twitter but I felt it warranted a little more attention. I don’t think I’m mentioned this before but I am an enthusiastic (though quite inexperienced) urbex-er. Urbex is short for ‘urban exploration’ and usually refers  to going and exploring derelict locations. As someone with a passion for mental health and medical paraphernalia, I particularly enjoy seeing old hospitals. In the UK, following the outcry at the exposed behaviour going on in the old asylums, many of them were quickly closed. Often the buildings still stand, boarded up from the public, holding strange pieces of memories of what they used to be. They stand as a monument of where medicine and psychiatry has come from. The crumbling walls, peeling pain and left-behind objects tell a silent story.

The below photos are of a Moscow brain laboratory, seemingly left in a hurry and abandoned since. Aged specimens lie out on the side, waiting to be inspected, amongst discarded coffee cups and magazines. You can only wonder what the story is here.

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More here.