This exhibition, conceived by Pat Pillai and with the participation of Rita Pearce, has come to fruition through the support of the community – both local and further afield – and Inspiring Australia NSW. Pat’s initial idea to knit, weave, wrap and crochet brain cells was the winning pitch at the 2013 Ultimo Science Festival Art & Science Soiree in Sydney. As with many of Pat’s ventures, it was designed to include contributions from the public and she and Rita travelled widely providing neuron-making workshops, lectures, information, patterns, encouragement and, of course, a big bag to collect the finished creations.
The main feature of the exhibition is a huge brain, with the shell being constructed from white milk crates. However, upon entering the brain you find yourself totally surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of neurons. They extend around the entire circumference, floor to ceiling, and hang from the roof. Tiny lights have been strung throughout giving the impression of sparking synapses. Despite the brilliance of the colour scheme, once you are inside, the sheer fact that it is mainly enclosed brings a feeling of intimacy and wonder.
In addition to this installation, scientific photographs were reproduced as artworks and displayed alongside the original image.
This work responds to imagery by Dr Michael Lovelace & Prof. Tailoi Chan-Ling. The dawn of neurodevelopment – the migratory journey of neural precursors. The artist, Mary Hedges, has written in her accompanying statement:
This neuron photo screamed to be interpreted as networks of crocheted wire chains and ribbed spider webs, with beads accentuating the junctions.
These solar plate etchings respond to an image by Prof. Ernst Wolvetang & Dr Sam Naylor. Astrocytes derived from human stem cells stained with GFAP. Artist, Marthese Pierce, accompanying statement reads:
There are billions of cells in the brain, not all of them are neurons. Glial cells, so named as they were once thought to be just ‘glue’, are now starting to get the recognition they deserve. Astroglia, or astrocytes, are the support cells in the brain that hold the neural network in position, mop up after synaptic firing and perform many other basic functions.
The exhibition consists of many more artworks than those shown here and the pictures don’t do the project justice. It’s at times like this, standing inside this enormously detailed brain, that you realise how much your eyes, and periphery vision, can absorb in a split second that simply cannot be captured by the camera.
There were a fraction over 1500 knitted neurons produced, my contribution being 11 or 12 I think, and every one plays its part and is as important as the next one. Pretty true to life in fact.