Work from
by Gordon Museum Artists in Residence, visual artist Susan Aldworth
wax sculptor Eleanor Crook, and Writer in Residence,
poet Valerie Laws

Confronting age-old taboos around the pathology of the body and its
dissolution, poet/performer Valerie Laws, visual artist/film maker Susan
Aldworth and wax sculptor Eleanor Crook explore and even celebrate the
terrible beauty of the dying process, down to cellular level. Uniquely,
they focus on the physiological events rather than the emotional or
psychological effects; paradoxically, they hope the result will inform both
medical professionals and the wider public and deepen understanding of
'this fatal subject.'

This is an exploration and description of the process and physiology of
dying. A collaboration between visual art, poetry and science that will
reveal the interdependence of living and dying at a cellular level and its
consequence for human identity. Science has many elegant descriptions of
"alive" and "dead" but reaches its limits at the experience of death and
dying. This where art and poetry offer insight beyond the limits of the
scientific method and where our interdisciplinary approach will give a
contemporary definition of death in its cultural context. Our innovative
approach offers an audience an original perspective.
This Fatal Subject is a very exciting and innovative project, in which the
three resident artists, with the help and support of Professor Susan
Standring at KCL and Bill Edwards at the Gordon Museum, are working with
scientists at KCL and elsewhere, researching the physical process of dying.

This show represents the climax of Phase One of the project, which has been
funded by the Wellcome Trust as a Research and Development Arts Award.
During this year, the artists made contact with scientists, forged working
relationships, and shared their research findings into this vital, and
fatal subject. They have been collecting material and information for their
work, and developing their artistic practices too. Aldworth, Laws and Crook
work as three individual practitioners, but are also developing
collaborative work which breaks down barriers between their different art
Phase Two of This Fatal Subject is planned to begin in 2009, culminating in
production of groundbreaking individual and collaborative work on the
science of dying, which will form public exhibitions in London and
elsewhere, as well as publication and performance. You will find updates
on Phase Two on the website, See also and

This show consists of a few examples of individual and collaborative work,
some of which are works in progress. Some notes on what is on display
follow below.
Animated film by Susan Aldworth, animation and sound by Barney Quinton,
featuring a visual poem which undergoes apoptosis by Valerie Laws. This
collaboration, still in development, arose from our individual researches
into the topic of programmed cell death.
ETCHINGS by Susan Aldworth
Apoptosis 1&2: etchings inspired by microphotographs of apoptotic cells.
Original prints: etching and aquatint 35 x 50 cms
Dissollution 1,2&3: a triptych about the dissolution of identity from
changes in the brain for people with Alzheimer's. Original prints: etching
and aquatint 65 x 50 cm
POEMS by Valerie Laws, artwork by Susan Aldworth
Litter of Moons, (shown by kind permission of Mslexia magazine), and
Sirenomelia were inspired by specimens at the Gordon Museum. Benign and
Leang Yen are about Lam Qua's paintings, one of which is in the Gordon, the
other at Yale. In the Dissection Room follows visits to dissection at KCL.
From Fin to Fingers is on the theme of Apoptosis in the foetus.
WAX SCULPTURES by Eleanor Crook
The Failing Consciousness 2008. Work in progress – the sculpture will be
cast in silicone rubber and fitted with an animatronic mechanism making it
able to speak a deathbed speech written by Valerie Laws, then die.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum
9a St Thomas' Street
London SE1 9RY

28 January -28 February 2009
Monday-Sunday 10.30am-5.00pm
more info: 020 7188 2679 or 07732 987 786

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