Perfect conditions

My studio-space at Gray Street Workshop

When I make an object I recognize that the conditions must feel right both internally and externally. But I cannot clearly define, let alone conjure up the ‘perfect’ conditions conducive to a successful making experience in any given moment.

I could attempt to list every aspect that I think might be conducive to a satisfying attempt at making something, but I sense the list would be an incomplete recipe and that it would say more about my habitual patterns and my powers of reflection than any set of conditions I could re-create in reality for future success.

We are highly nuanced beings with highly nuanced needs engaged in a complex world of external conditions not entirely of our making or under our control.

In other words, there are zillions of possible variants in this equation. It would be an impossible task to prescribe a set of conditions that would provide a perfect teaching and learning environment for everyone- as impossible as knowing everything there is to know about the human body from all points of view.

The Anatomy Laboratory at Flinders University

What are the conditions in this particular anatomy classroom that encourage students to engage with the subject matter so directly and so enthusiastically? What is the nature of these experiences and what does an individual gain through this direct engagement? These are big questions worth addressing when considering the relationships between the processes implicated in making art that explores and expresses embodiment and the processes involved in medical education. Even though the catalyst for an initial engagement may vary between individuals there is much to be gained in an exploration of the differences and cross-overs in how and what we embody of the subject matter in the process.

It’s the final week of the musculoskeletal course for 2011. On Friday the 2nd year medical students will attend their last formal lectures, tutorials and prac classes and they will have a chance to attend the final practical anatomy review before exams. It will be my last chance to observe them in the anatomy laboratory for this year. I’ve been able to collect some valuable and unprecedented data. Writing, film and stills- observations of the role that touch and gesture play in the students’ experience of practical anatomy education- documentation of an entire course from a very particular perspective.

Now it’s time for a concentrated review of this material in collaboration with their teacher, Professor Ian Gibbins.


About Catherine Truman

Biographical Statement 2011 Catherine Truman is co-founder and current partner of Gray Street Workshop in Adelaide, South Australia. Established in 1985, it is one of Australia's longest running artists' co-operatives. She has traveled and exhibited widely nationally and internationally and is represented in a number of major national and international collections including the Pinakothek Moderne Munich, Museum of Auckland, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Powerhouse Museum Sydney, Art Gallery of South Australia and Artbank In 2007 she was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship and selected as a Master of Australian Craft 2008-2010. Truman qualified as a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method in 1999 and uses the body as a starting point in her work. Her work has always been informed by a strong political consciousness. Current interests lie in the ways in which human anatomy has been translated through artistic process and scientific method – specifically how the experience of living inside a body has been given meaning and the role of new technologies in the translation, expression and expansion of our individual and shared experiences of the human body. She has researched historical and contemporary anatomical collections world-wide and has participated in a number of art/science- based projects such as Reskin an ANAT Wearable technology Lab, Australian National University, With the Body in Mind (a multidisciplinary art/sciences forum presented through Arts in Health, Flinders Medical Centre and Not Absolute an exhibition of collaborative works by artists and medical researchers and scientists held at Flinders University Art Museum, 2009. In 2008 Truman was invited to participate in Thinking Through the Body (ARTLAB) –an interdisciplinary research project exploring the use and potential of touch, movement and proprioception in body-focused interactive art practices co-coordinated by Dr George Khut and Dr Lizzie Muller. The first public presentation of this research was held in Performance Space, Sydney, 2009. Thinking Through the Body continues to operate as a research ensemble. Since 2009 Truman has been artist in residence in the Autonomic Neurotransmission Laboratory, Anatomy and Histology, Flinders University, Adelaide. In 2010 Truman and neuroscientist, Professor Ian Gibbins were awarded a Teaching and Learning Innovation grant (Flinders University) to carry our their research project entitled: Translating the Body: the choreography of representation in anatomy teaching. Truman has just been awarded a ANAT Synapse residency to further her collaboration with Gibbins. Their research is focused on the exploration of the role of two and three dimensional forms of representation in the communication of functional human anatomy to students of medical science.
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