Case StudY

The Hunterian Museum, London

Transplant and Life, a programme of events and commissioned artworks by artists Tim Wainwright and John Wynne, using sound, photography and video to reveal intimate patient experiences, is at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, London until 20th May 2017.

The Hunterian Museum boasts unrivalled collections of human and non-human anatomical and pathological specimens, models and surgical instruments across the centuries, as well as art and sculpture on the subject of surgery and anatomy. It is open free to all visitors from Tuesday to Saturday, 10AM-5PM.

Crystal Gallery Installation

The Transplant and Life exhibition by Tim Wainwright and John Wynne gives life and voice to patient experiences and aims to raise awareness of the importance of transplantation and some of the challenges surrounding it. Every day three people, who could benefit from a transplant, die in the UK because there are not enough organ donors.

Wainwright and Wynne collaborated for about a year as artists-in-residence at the Royal Free Hospital, recording patient experiences (both pre- and post-surgery), meeting live kidney and liver donors and medical professionals.

The photography, video and audio recordings are extraordinarily emotive, conveying powerful accounts of life-changing and sometimes traumatic events as well as the long-term consequences of living with transplanted organs. The voice recordings were made by Wynne, sometimes at the hospital bedside, sometimes in patients’ homes.

John Wynne recording Ed Dowie (during a dialysis session at St Pancras Hospital, London)

Wynne’s methods are relatively obtrusive, using high specification microphone and close-mic techniques, but the quality and intimacy of the recordings are of paramount importance. Wynne comments, “we record audio separately from video or still photographs, so that when people are talking they don’t have a camera staring at them – we find people are more relaxed and less self-conscious this way, and we’ve always been interested in exploring the relationship between sound and still images”.

Multi-channel playback of audio in the exhibition is achieved using twelve SolidDrive Surface Transducers strategically placed directly onto the glass cabinets of the museum’s stunning Crystal Gallery.

John Wynne comments, “in the Crystal Gallery you’re surrounded by reflective glass surfaces, so the acoustics are tricky. I wanted to use twelve channels of sound, but I didn’t want to interfere with the architecture by plonking speakers around the space. I was aware of surface transducers but had concerns they lacked the presence we required for the Transplant and Life exhibition”.

“I discussed the project with Stanislas Boivin-Champeaux at Sound Directions, who immediately suggested we experiment with the SolidDrive SD1g Glass Transducer. They enabled us to deliver high-quality audio playback without being obtrusive”, adds Wynne.

Crystal Gallery Installation

In addition to the exhibition within the museum, Wynne and Wainwright developed a digital resource, available within the museum via smartphone and remotely via the internet.

“The digital resource was always intended as something that would grow before and during the exhibition”, comments Wynne. “It will evolve continuously over the duration of the project and will be updated as patients’ stories evolve. We’ll also be adding more material relating to the science and history of organ transplantation and about some of the related objects in the Hunterian collection.”

The exhibition is supported by the Arts Council England, The Royal Free Hospital, the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, the Royal College of Surgeons and the University of the Arts, London.

Equipment List: 12 x SolidDrive SD1g Surface Transducer

Images © Tim Wainwright 2016

Further information

Tim Wainwright

Tim Wainwright uses photography, film and sound to investigate the nature and consequences of transformation and to enable people to tell their stories. He has shown his work across the globe, in museums, galleries, and public and private spaces. It has included privately commissioned works and several Arts Council funded large-scale visual and sonic installations and photographic documentary projects.

Transplant & Life

Find out more about Transplant and Life by using the digital guide

Hunterian Museum

John Hunter’s collection was purchased by the government in 1799 and given to the Company (later The Royal College) of Surgeons. The collection formed the basis for a museum constructed as part of the new Royal College of Surgeons building on the south side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. After the Transplant and Life exhibition closes in May 2017, the building will be renovated, so this is the last opportunity to see the Crystal Gallery in its current form.

The artists and the Hunterian Museum would like to thank all the people involved as participants and the following organisations for funding the project: Hunterian Museum Trustees, Organ Recovery Systems, Bridge to Life, PharmaPal, Mr Nick Lane, Oxford CommSciCom and NHS Blood and Transplant.

Transplant and Life used products developed and supplied by: City Insights, NES, Roche AV, Metro Imaging and Sound Directions.

John Wynne

John Wynne’s award-winning work is made for museums, galleries, public spaces and radio: it ranges from large-scale installations to delicate sculptural works and from flying radios to composed documentaries that explore the boundaries between documentary and abstraction. His Installation for 300 speakers, Pianola and vacuum cleaner became the first piece of sound art in the Saatchi collection and won him the 2010 British Composer Award for Sonic Art. He has worked with speakers of endangered languages in Botswana and British Columbia and has had solo exhibitions in the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, the National Art Gallery of Namibia and other international venues. He is a Reader in Sound Arts at the University of the Arts London, a core member of the CRiSAP research centre and has a PhD from Goldsmiths College, University of London.