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A ‘View’ of the Wellcome Trust

24 Jul, 2013

View at the Wellcome TrustIf you walk past the Wellcome Trust headquarters during the next year, your eyes will be drawn to ‘View’, an art installation created by Phoebe Argent, who has just finished a BA in Graphic Design at Camberwell College of Arts. The Wellcome Trust windows are a prominent feature of our headquarters on Euston Road and we like to use their vast space to show off some of the work that the Trust supports. This week sees the completion of the latest window display and we caught up with the artist to find out more about the work.

The Wellcome Trust Windows have a tradition of containing striking art installations to grab the attention of the hurrying passers-by. They are not just decorative, but they encourage a wide variety of people to engage in the Wellcome Trust by displaying art inspired by the science that the Trust funds.

It is not easy to create a brilliant window display, as Kate Forde, the senior curator in charge of the windows display explains. “The space is challenging to work with and was not specifically designed to host artwork. A good installation will be spectacular enough to grab the attention of the fleeting audience and portray something scientifically relevant.”

Phoebe Argent’s design does just this. Based on the theme ‘The changing perception of images’, ‘View’ is the winning design from a competition open to University of the Arts London students, which was devised by Sigune Hamann, the artist, lecturer and curator of this year’s commission. The installation consists of a large folded concertina depicting two figures moving through an abstract space.

According to Argent, “I thought it was important to create an installation which responded to an audience who are in motion. The images themselves reflect the fact that we are creatures on the move.”  She is interested in the tension between two and three dimensions, captured in the folded paper feel of ‘View’ saying “the folded concertina construction is meant to increase the viewer’s perception of the images through distortion and fragmentation, engaging them in a active viewing experience where they can mirror and interact with the figures, drawing them into the narrative”.

View at the Wellcome Trust

Phoebe is keen to emphasise the scientific nature of her inspiration: “The piece was inspired by ideas about the perception of the self and other. The images of the figures allude to the individual and universal experience of how, as kinetic, sensory human beings, we are in constant communication with our environment and with one another. It shows that we are systems, continuously receiving and sending signals.”

The Wellcome Trust has supported a lot of work on image perception in recent years and advances in neuroscience are giving us a better understanding of how the brain processes images. Meanwhile technology finds news ways to manipulate our perception with things like 3D films. The window display gives us an opportunity to represent this work in a new way. As Argent says, “Artists and designers can communicate ideas about science, health and wellbeing in new and exciting ways, drawing people in and striking their curiosity in the subjects.”

Forde believes that Argent’s installation has all the ingredients for success, “it is very simple, yet striking, sparking the curiosity of passers-by”. It also adds a friendlier side to one of London’s busiest thoroughfares, “in such an impersonal surrounding, making eye contact with the figures in the display feels very human.”

Phoebe’s window display will be in place until July 2014 at which point ‘Eye-contact’ will be installed, designed by Philip Hudson, another Camberwell student who also won the competition. 

Image credit: University of the Arts London, Wellcome images
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