Scribing the Soul

Touring exhibition to: Customs House, South Shields, Science Oxford, Oxford, Peninsula Arts, Plymouth, Transition Gallery, London
22 February -17 August 2008

Scribing the Soul is a body of work (film, etching, digital print and installation) developed by Susan Aldworth between 2001 and 2007. It explores and expresses fundamental questions of personal identity raised by contemporary investigations (neuroscience, medicine, philosophy and art) into the nature of consciousness. Originally inspired by Aldworth’s residencies in the brain scanning unit at the Royal London Hospital from 2000-6, the exhibition is an artistic and personal response to looking at (and inside) the brain at close quarters, – both her own brain and the real-time brain scans of 30 strangers. The question driving these works is: “how does meat become mind?” Her concern, as an artist, is to embrace the emotional and aesthetic dimensions of the question itself, recapturing the voltage surge of awe and bewilderment felt when, during a medical procedure, she was faced with radiological images of the interior of her own head, real time. You are thinking about what you are seeing with what you are seeing on the screen. This is the mind/body problem stripped to the bone. The mission of science and philosophy is to dispel the paradox; Aldworth celebrates it.

Infant Fingers by Paul Broks, essay in Scribing the Soul Catalogue, 2008.

You are lying on a bed looking up at your brain scan live on a bank of monitors. You are seeing the inside of your brain with your brain. You are thinking about what you are seeing with what you are seeing on the screen. You are looking inside your head while thinking, seeing, feeling. But where is the “me” in all this?