About Art in Global Health
‘Global health’ is a phrase we hear more and
more frequently. As it attracts more attention it attracts more
investment and more research. But what does it mean?
Can health really be ‘global’? To the extent
that some diseases are tied to geography, no. But the challenges
facing researchers, doctors, families, politicians and individuals
who deal with disease often have a great deal in common, wherever
they are in the world.
Whether the challenge is investigating genetic
susceptibility to malaria, designing diagnostics for dengue fever
or sequencing the human genome, all research teams have trained
personnel working with agreed protocols and standard equipment to
generate data that will be analysed using recognised statistical
However, who gets recruited to studies, why
they agree to take part, what some politicians do with the results
and how a drug gets marketed are all things that can vary
enormously from place to place and that can lead to the
enthusiastic adoption of dubious solutions or bury lab successes
under a mountain of bureaucratic indifference. The social relevance
of scientific research is shaped by its cultural context.
'Art in Global Health' has set up six artist
residencies in six Wellcome Trust-funded
research centres as a way of teasing out some of the more
personal, philosophical, cultural and political dimensions of
health research. This exciting project is born out of Wellcome
Collection’s desire to engage the curious public globally with the
health research that the Trust funds – in Kenya, Malawi, South
Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and the UK.
'Art in Global Health' residencies will last
for six months, with artists given a wide brief: to find out about
the research being undertaken, to interact with scientists and team
members from other disciplines (anthropologists, ethicists,
economists, educators and so on) and to produce work in response to
the processes of research and discovery they have observed.
Outcomes of the residencies – exhibitions, performances and
supporting events – will begin in the last quarter of 2012 and
continue into early 2013.
Each investigative journey and its outcomes
will be documented online, helping to illuminate the scientific
processes and the web of relationships upon which those processes
We can't predict what questions will be raised
by the work of the artists in residence as they work with (and
question) scientists and specialists in other disciplines in six
very different settings on three continents; however, we're
prepared to bet that we will be surprised and challenged, that the
project will broaden our thinking about why and how we do health
research and that – given the artists selected – it will produce
some extraordinary work along the way.