How does trauma affect the brain, the body, the national psyche, or all three? How do buildings, bodies, artworks and stories record the traumas of our past? How do we bounce back after a trauma, and how is our understanding of trauma’s lasting effect changing? Trauma: Built to Break, a wide-ranging exhibition and event series exploring these questions, is open at the Science Gallery in Dublin until 21 February 2016. 

Trauma is a cross-artform and cross-disciplinary approach to the subject, with 26 exhibits from around the world, including:

  • Scarred For Life, Ted Meyer (US): A multimodality arts and health project that addresses issues of body integrity and the impact of invasive medical procedures on self-identity, through the lens of contemporary art and culture. The project’s title embodies a duality of ideas that are explored in depth: first, that medically-related scars or physical disfigurements often have a profound, lifelong impact on a patient’s self-identity and secondly, that those scars have the potential to serve as powerful symbols of regeneration and life. Prints have been created from the participants’ scars. They are displayed in the space alongside an image and story about each person and their scar. Visitors are invited to draw their own scars and add them to the collection in the space.
  • Primitive Reflex, Grainne Tynan (IE): This installation explores the artist’s experience of working as an occupational therapist with people who have suffered a trauma to the central nervous system, resulting in the return of their infantile (or primitive) reflexes. Occupational therapists and physiotherapists commonly use splints in an attempt to prevent permanent contractures (shortening of soft tissues) following a stroke. However, according to a Cochrane review by a global independent network of health practitioners and researchers (Katalinic 2010), there is little to no evidence supporting this treatment method. As a result, therapists are relying on instinct rather than knowledge for their clinical reasoning. Primitive Reflex invites members of the public to enter into a conversation about the principles and materials used by healthcare professionals, empowering them to question approaches used in recovery from trauma.
  • Your Beautiful Self, Naama Schendar: A film and performative work based on intimate conversations about trauma with researchers, scientists and trauma survivors from around the world. Looking at the portrayal of the modern traumatic experience as an interconnected global phenomenon and an extremely personal event, it binds the individual stories of the participants together into a single narrative. The participants’ faces are never revealed. Instead, they are all embodied by the artist, who lip-syncs to their different voices.
  • Memory Laundering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and designgoat (US and IE): Currently, researchers are trying to understand the fundamental nature of memory by programming brain cells to respond to light, allowing them to target particular memories by shining lasers into the brain. The Tonegawa Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have shown that it’s possible to create false memories, change a traumatic memory into a happy one, and retrieve a memory that has been forgotten. They’ve only done this with mice so far, but in a future where we will likely be able to edit human memories, should we? Memory Laundering invites visitors to share their memories — good and bad — and to explore what can happen to them over time.
  • Composing the Tinnitus Suites: 2015 D, Daniel Fishkin (US): An ongoing composition investigating the aesthetics of hearing damage through the installation of Fishkin’s room-sized long-string instrument, Lady’s Harp. Daniel suffers from tinnitus — a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears — which is commonly caused by exposure to loud noises.
  • Memory of a Brain Malformation, Katharine Dowson (UK): Science and technology, natural organisms and the human body in all its forms inspire Katharine Dowson. Collaborating with scientists and medics on different projects allows her to explore her interest and make work that is a visual question to the research she sees. Memory of a Brain Malformation is a laser etching in glass of a brain tumour belonging to the artist’s cousin. The malformation was successfully lasered out of her brain, and the artist has used a laser to recreate it.

For information on this exhibition and related events visit


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