Artificial Insemination And An Underwater Ballet: Science Meets Art At Wellcome Collection

Somewhere in Between, Wellcome Collection ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 76 months ago

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Last Updated 08 March 2018

Artificial Insemination And An Underwater Ballet: Science Meets Art At Wellcome Collection Somewhere in Between, Wellcome Collection 4
Hold your breath for this beautiful work. Photo: Michael Bowles, Wellcome Collection

Free divers dance along a wire as we stand transfixed watching an underwater dream world. We tilt our heads to one side and then the other trying to figure out which way is up, before realising it doesn't matter. Surrounded by three screens of underwater beauty is fantastic — just don't forget to breathe.

This is the work of artist and free diver Martina Amati, and it's breathtaking — in more ways than one. We've seen this video work once before, but even on a second watch we're captivated by this feat of seemingly effortless endurance.

It's all about artificial insemination and we're not sure comfortable with it. Photo: Michael Bowles, Wellcome Collection

It's one of four art series in Wellcome Collection's new exhibition called Somewhere in Between, titled so because it blends the boundaries of art and science.

Maria McKinney has adorned bulls with colourful decorations and our initial reaction was 'how pretty'. Once we realise these adornments have been woven from (unused) artificial insemination straws, our smiles quickly turn melt into a look of revulsion. But should we be revolted? If you've ever eaten beef or cheese, then it's likely to have been an indirect product of artificial insemination — that milkshake doesn't look so luxurious now.

Step into an alien sex club. Photo: Michael Bowles, Wellcome Collection

This work challenges people to think about the world of mass production and how the food and drink we consume make the journey to our plates. Some of the processes may be unpalatable for many, but people need to realise where their delicious produce comes from.

One dud from this show were the videos of Daria Martin that look at the condition mirror-touch synaesthesia — where people feel the sensation of what another person is touching. It's a fascinating condition that deserves to be better known, but trying to convey it through grainy videos — one in the form of a melodrama — is too abstract.

A Caravaggio is now burdened with HIV medication in the alien sex club.

The most eye-catching set piece is John Walter's alien sex club. His work examines the improvement in treating HIV and attitudes to sexual risk taking. These are heavy subjects but are addressed through bright colours, humorous cartoons and models of the virus itself. We get architectural layouts of cruising spots, an alternate tarot deck containing cards such as matriarchy and semen demon, and a man suffering from crystal dick. It's all so bizarre that it leaves us smiling. It's the sign of a deft artist that Walter can take important issues and add levity to them without coming across as dismissive.

Once again Wellcome Collection has come up trumps with the exhibition design as we break off into four rooms from a central atrium — the space we know so well feels completely different. With three out of the four artists resonating strongly with us this is yet another Wellcome change.

Somewhere in Between is on at Wellcome Collection until 27 August. Entrance is free.