G-Lands: an out-of-body experience
A Sci-Art collaboration between Dr Elaine Emmerson and Emily Fong, Artist in Residence at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM), in partnership with ASCUS Art and Science.
Despite being a lifesaving treatment for patients with head and neck cancer, a side-effect of radiotherapy is damage to salivary glands, leading to the chronic condition Xerostomia, or dry mouth. This can severely affect a patient’s quality of life, with existing treatments concentrating only on short-term relief of such side-effects. The work of Dr Elaine Emmerson aims to develop a regenerative strategy to restore salivary function.
Whilst viewing a salivary gland in the Emmerson Lab at CRM, artist Emily Fong raised questions about the patient now living without it. How incredible it is that a surgeon, scientist, artist or member of the public can engage with someone else’s body part.
- Video: G-Lands: an out-of-body experience
- Dr Elaine Emmerson and artist Emily Fong describe their collaborative sci-art project G-Lands: An out of body experience. Elaine leads a research group searching for ways to repair salivary glands following radiotherapy treatment for cancer. Emily shows some of her drawings and describes how she is using drawing and sculpture to bring the science to the public and her hope that this project will create a dialogue between scientists, clinicians, patients and the public.
About the project
Emily Fong has observed the journey taken by the salivary gland, from the time it is removed from the patient through to the research taking place in Dr. Elaine Emmerson’s laboratory. She has met with patients, surgeons, oncologists, pathologists and research scientists, capturing the different perspectives of those who interact with salivary gland. These interactions and observations have been documented through drawing and sculpture.
This innovative project will follow Osiris - the salivary gland specimen who exists in the G-Lands, located everywhere and nowhere at once.
By creatively mapping the out-of-body experience through conversation, observation, drawing and sculpture, we will encounter the planets orbiting Osiris; the patient, the surgeon, the oncologist, the pathologist, the scientist and the public. In making the salivary gland the protagonist, all voices are equal, united by their common interest: exploring the G-Lands."
Project aims and outcomes
The project will open a dynamic dialogue around quality of life and the important role of the salivary gland in sickness and health. It will empower head and neck cancer patients to position themselves at the centre of research, offering an opportunity to contribute to a collective voice, engaging scientists and the public in their lived experience of Dry Mouth.
The art-science collaboration involves multiple partnerships including ASCUS Art and Science, The Throat Cancer Foundation, Surgeons’ Hall Museum and Health Care Professionals from NHS Lothian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The experience will be shared through an exhibition of work at the Edinburgh Science Festival 2022, from 9th April to 9th June at Summerhall and Emily is giving a talk on 9th April as part of the Festival. We are also running patient workshops and other events whilst the exhibition is on.
Emily Fong, CRM Artist-in-Residence
Emily is an artist exploring life and death, the embodiment of emotion and the experience of existing in a human container. Her artistic practice is underpinned by the observation and communication of the life cycles of living things; growth, mortality and change from the micro to the macro. Through the mediums of drawing, painting, sculpture and writing, she seeks to highlight our similarities not only to one another but also to other species that occupy this planet. What are we made of? How are we structurally and emotionally connected beneath the skin? Her intuition is that by going deep inside life, turning inside out, she might discover new ways of observing and re-configuring the outside.