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  • New Grant Museum exhibition ‘Agonism/Antagonism’ is open

    By Tannis Davidson, on 21 September 2018

    The Grant Museum is delighted to announce the opening of  Agonism/Antagonism, a new exhibition exploring evolution and genetics through the stunning artworks of multidisciplinary artist Neus Torres Tamarit and computer scientist Ben Murray – the art and science duo known as Phenotypica.

    Acrylic Sculpture. Neus Torres Tamarit

    Acrylic Sculpture. © Neus Torres Tamarit.

    The exhibition is the result of Neus’ residency with the Max Reuter laboratory at UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, where she has been immersed in the research, techniques and tools used to study the genetic evolution of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

    Dr. Max Reuter and his team use fruit flies to conduct research into the evolution of sexual dimorphism. In sexually reproducing species, the genetic needs of the two genders are often in direct conflict; a phenomenon known as sexual antagonism. The tension between the genders is eventually broken by mutations that decouple the traits in males and females, resulting in new differences (dimorphisms) between them.

    Acrylic Sculpture. Neus Torres Tamarit

    Acrylic Sculpture. © Neus Torres Tamarit.

    Reflecting the aesthetic environment of the laboratory and exploring the uneasy alliance that exists between males and females of a species, Agonism/Antagonism is the intersection between art, science and technology. Artworks include bioplastic sculptures which float among the skeletons, digital art and projections, animated explorations of genetic antagonism in virtual reality and CT scans of fruit flies.

    Gender A - Gender B. Neus Torres Tamarit.

    ‘Gender A – Gender B’. Neus Torres Tamarit. 2018.

    Neus and Ben are interested in how artworks about genetics interact with the subject and with the audience, and how accurately such artworks present their scientific concepts. The aim of their work is to remove the boundaries that often separate science from the rest of human activity and reveal the creativity and beauty in scientific research and discovery.

    Agonism/Antagonism runs until 22nd December 2018. Full details on the exhibition’s website.

    The Grant Museum of Zoology is open from 1–5pm Monday to Saturday. Admission is free and there is no need to book.

    Tannis Davidson is the Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology

     

     

    Internal Beauty opens today

    By Jack Ashby, on 17 January 2018

    It is very easy to say that biology is beautiful, and obviously a lot of it is. But when it comes to cow rectums, pig fat, maggot-infested mushrooms and sheep testicles, people may need a bit more convincing of the aesthetic qualities of nature. These are the primary materials that make up the artworks in our new exhibition – Internal Beauty – which opens today.

    Artist Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva has created sculptures and installations from caul fat (the tissue that encases pig stomachs and intestines) and other animal organs, drawing attention to parts of the body we would sometimes rather forget. There is no denying the results are exquisite.

    Elpida at work in a previous exhibition (Haruspex, Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham) cow’s stomach, lamb intestines, caul fat, 2016, photo Nick Dunmur

    Elpida at work in a previous exhibition (Haruspex, Making Beauty at Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham) cow’s stomach, lamb intestines, caul fat, 2016, photo Nick Dunmur

    The Grant Museum shares its building with the UCL Medical School (we moved in to what was once the Medical School’s library in 2011), and Elpida’s work has brought some of the cutting-edge research that our neighbours are undertaking into the museum. Internal Beauty is an exhibition resulting from Hadzi-Vasileva’s residency in biomedical research labs, (funded by Wellcome Trust), considering nutrition, our gut and how man-made, microscopic materials can fix problems. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2015

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 August 2015

    And now. The end is near. It’s time to face. The final curtain. Lallaalala. De da da da de dada da. De dada dadada of which I’m certain. Hmmm hmm hmmm hmm hmm. Dah dah de dah dah da da. Da de de de and then a highway. BUT MORE, MUCH MORE THAN FISH, WE DID IT OURRRRRR WAY!

    This is a very special underwhelming fossil fish this month, not normally something I do here given the aim of this monthly series of blogs about the Grant Museum’s overwhelmingly underwhelming fossi fish collection is to keep it low key and on the underwhelming side. Even if the series did recently feature on VICE magazine’s Motherboard channel, with bonus IN DRAWER photographs. However, this is my last underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog post as the curator of the Grant Museum. I’m off to pastures new with far less in the way of fossil fish, underwhelming or otherwise.

    But that’s no reason to get too sentimental. So stiff upper lip, wipe away those fake allergy tears and let’s unceremoniously take a look at this month’s underwhelming fish fossil. Stretch your eyes and try to stay awake through this… (more…)

    Through the Looking Glass Sponge

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 18 November 2014

    Since joining the Museum as artist in residence last month, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through glass. I’ve looked through the plate glass cabinets protecting the specimens, the thickly blown glass of the specimen jars, and finally the specimens themselves: glass sponges. These creatures are 90% silica, formed of threads of glass spicules. They are usually found in the dark depths of the ocean, but up in the spotlights of the Museum they glow – a bright shelf of organic glass. Their structure is so intricate that I have to use even more layers of glass to be able to see them: reading glasses, magnifying glasses, and my recently acquired endoscope (excellent for getting round those awkward sponge corners). With all these layers of glass, reflection becomes an issue – in photographs, my face or the camera lens can appear, and viewed at certain angles even the specimen seems to be looking at its own reflection within the glass jar.

    Last week I put together a pinhole camera for one of the specimens. Pinhole cameras are made of a light-sealed box with photosensitive paper inside, and a small pinhole on the opposite side. The pinhole acts like the shutter of a camera – you aim the pinhole at whatever you want to capture and the light travels through the pinhole to the photosensitive paper inside the box, which is then developed in the darkroom and the image appears. I wanted to try putting the specimen inside the pinhole camera, with photosensitive paper surrounding it. I hoped that by doing this I would get a 360 degrees photogram of the glass sponge. However, the glass sponge and its jar had other ideas.

    Here are some photograms I took of the Museum’s Walteria leuckarti. (more…)

    Mystery Blob Sponge: It crawls! It creeps! It eats you alive!

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 14 October 2014

    Day four of my sponge exploration (I’m here for ten months as the Museum’s Artist in Residence). There’s one specimen on the shelf that I’ve been saving as a particularly special treat… it looks like an onion, it’s not sealed in a jar, and it doesn’t have a label. It’s in the glass sponge cabinet, but it doesn’t look like the other specimens. Instead, it has a grey doughy appearance, covered in small holes, and it tapers at the top into a dark red spiral. I take it back to my desk for a closer look.

    The Mystery Sponge

    The Mystery Sponge

     

    One of the (many) great things about spending time in the Grant Museum is that I share a room with people who not only know a lot about zoology, but also want to keep finding out more. I like to distract them from their work with questions like, ‘How do things, erm, grow?’. They are very patient. But today, I had a new question: ‘What is this oniony pointy sponge that has no label?’ Was it, perhaps, the broken base of a glass rope sponge? No – a glass sponge is too thready. Was it a fossil?  No – a fossil would be heavier. Then we had a closer look at its pointy top: (more…)

    First day with the sponges

    By Eleanor Morgan, on 1 October 2014

    Close up of Venus' flower basket glass sponge. LDUCZ-B39

    Close up of Venus’ flower basket glass sponge. LDUCZ-B39

    Today I begin an artist-in-residency position at the Grant Museum of Zoology, funded by The Leverhulme Trust. I’ll be working with the Museum’s collection of deep-sea sponges, focusing in particular on their calcareous and glass sponges. These extraordinary animals (not plants, as the Museum’s founder Robert Grant discovered back in the nineteenth century) are composed of calcium carbonate and silica – limestone and glass.

    I will be spending the next ten months here studying the sponge collection with the aim of creating art from the same materials that the sponges use to build themselves. (more…)

    Work Experience at UCL Art Museum

    By Martine Rouleau, on 14 July 2014

    This blog was written by Ellie who is in year 10 at Kingsmead School. She was on work experience at UCL for a week between 7th-11th July. She spent a day shadowing Dr Martine Rouleau, Learning and Access Officer at UCL Art Museum.

    LDUCS-2176_IMG1 - TurnerAs I’m on work experience here, I didn’t know anything about UCL Art Museum. I’ve been here for 2 days and I now know a lot of information about the history and collections at the art museum.

    I’ve learnt that there are over 10,000 pieces of art here created by a variety of artists, some that are very well known and some that aren’t. They’re very different and they all have different meanings and explanations of why they were produced. However, they have one thing in common and that is being under the same roof.

    UCL has the artwork of Turner, de Wint, Cox and Rowlandson. They also have work by students that have won competitions such as best art work in their year at University (the William Coldstream Memorial Prize).

    (more…)

    Pottery Project Guest Blog: Ceramic Inheritance

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 6 April 2014

    Guest Blog by Sisse Lee Jørgenser.

    In our fourth in the series on different perspectives on Egyptian pottery Sisse Lee Jørgensen, a student studying ceramics at The Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design Bornholm, Denmark, reveals how Petrie’s Sequence Dating inspired her recent installation.

    I was introduced to Petrie’s pots for the first time by the BBC4 program: “The Man Who Discovered Egypt”,  and it was through this documentary that I learnt about sequence dating.
    As a craftsperson today I found this  chronological ordering of ceramic vessels especially interesting, particularly the very striking development of form and design over time. Petrie’s findings illuminated crafting, culture and history, not just in the past but also  prompted me to reflect upon ceramic traditions today and the way in which old crafts are transformed and passed on, yet retain elements of the old ways.

    Flinders Petrie's classification of pottery. Frontispiece of Diospolis Parva (1901). Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

    Flinders Petrie’s classification of Predynastic pottery. Frontispiece of Diospolis Parva (1901). Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

    (more…)

    The Art of the Grant

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 25 February 2014

    At the Grant Museum both staff and our visitors are very lucky because we do not have quite the same level of red tape as most non-university based museums. Our collections are historically for teaching only, and even now are still used heavily in undergraduate courses at UCL, which means that physical access to specimens is much more possible than in non-teaching based collections. It is for this reason, as well as the shining personalities of the Grant Museum staff no doubt, that our Museum is extremely popular with artists. The ability to choose a specimen (within reason… the mounted donkey skeleton is a little heavy) and have it placed on the table in front of you for you to gaze at and draw to your heart’s content, is surely nearing unparalleled levels of excitement. (more…)