Above: From Peng Wu's "Archive of Sleeplessness," an investigation into the culture of sleep at the Weisman Art Museum.

Who says art and science don't mix? In fall 2018, the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration at the Weisman Art Museum brought in four artists for a year-long “Art and Health" residency with medical professionals. 

On Thursday, WAM hosts the closing event for "Walk back to your body," an exhibition of artworks made during these year-long investigations that opened last September. The public will get a chance to interact with the project’s final exhibitions and artists (6-7 p.m.), and then learn more about the projects through public presentations (7-9 p.m.).

The collaborative artist-medical professionals duos – and in one instance, a trio – investigated sleep, the physical conditions of older people, the wonder of a heartbeat, and adolescent wellbeing through participatory workshops and gatherings.

Alison Hiltner's "heart" project

Alison Hiltner partnered with Dr. Paul Iaizzo and Dr. Brenda Ogle to explore the organ that people think about the most: the heart.

“I decided to create a piece that would allow participants to hold each others hearts or their own,” explained Hiltner.

A sensor transmits the pulse of whoever is wearing it to a pump that controls the movement of a cluster of silicone tips, which then pulsates the wearer’s heartbeat. (Hiltner feels that it's still in proto-type form.)

“It's a way to emphasize our physical being, to allow us to connect what is central to our existence yet something we are still disconnected from, a part of us we always want to share but don't yet completely understand,” she said.

From Anna Marie Shogren's collection of wearable sculptures.

Dance artist Anna Marie Shogren worked with Dr. Kristine Talley from the School of Nursing and the Center for Aging Science and Care Innovation to explore the sense of community at senior assisted living and long-term care residencies. Shogren, who had a background working in caregiving positions, was connected with reseachers in assisted living communities.

Dr. Talley was very supportive in finding resources for her, from physical therapists who could answer an offshoot question to nursing PhD students.

In working closely with someone in the medical field, she was able to more clearly see the institutional frameworks, and the types of hierarchical thinking that happens in medical schools and care facilities. 

For her interactive exhibition at the Weisman, she invites people to try on a collection of wearable pieces — Shuffle Gait Pants, Dementia Tent, Posterior Tilt Pants, Macular Degeneration Glasses — to try on the body of someone else who experiences this on a daily basis. Visitors may stop by to try on the werable sculptures on Wednesdays and Fridays from 12/4 p.m. through Fri., Dec. 14th, when Shogren is there, or anytime the museum is open. Shogren also previously performed with the sculptures.

"It is very meditative," said Shogren. "I feel I am learning more from the work than I am performing . . .I am  being more the role of the caregiver." 

Social practice artist/design activist Peng Wu (吴朋) partnered with Dr. Michael Howell, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Neurology and leading expert in the relationship between sleep and the brain to produce their ongoing project the Archive of Sleeplessness. Included in that is the installation “Daydream Chapel” is an installation that offers people a chance to rest, something he considers a sacred and spiritual experience. Viewers may lie down inside the installation, created with threads, and take a moment to recharge.

From Yuko Taniguchi's November 2018 workshop.

Poet Yuko Taniguchi (谷口優子) worked closely with Kathryn Cullen, MD, associate professor and division chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry, explored how creative processes can change the lives of teenagers with behavior disorders. Their goal? To show the teens how “becoming an artist” could help them shift away from negative self-perceptions. During an event in November, Taniguchi and Cullen invited people to contemplate questions about beauty and mental illness through poetry and origami. Taniguchi and Cullen also produced a series of poems as the result of their collaboration. 

For the worlds of art and science, collaboration may not only be pleasant, but vital. Another theme that ran throughout the year-long project was the necessity of relationships to well-being. One of the moments that stood out most to Hiltner, in fact, was discovering that “cells die of loneliness.” 

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