University of Birmingham | Encoded Realities

Encoded Realities alludes to the hidden or embedded principles governing various aspects of life, including health and wellness. Interdisciplinary scientists in SMQB at the University of Birmingham employ mathematical models and computational algorithms to represent, interrogate and analyse such principles in collaboration with other scientists, providing novel insights into the mechanisms of health and disease.

Through the lens of bridging art and science, this exhibition explores and playfully decodes hidden patterns, structures, and complexities of different health conditions and their profound impact on human experiences. Is reality waiting to be revealed through interdisciplinary collaboration, creative expression and lived experience?

Meet the artists:

Agi Haines is an internationally exhibiting practitioner, researcher and lecturer whose research looks at the propensity for design to reevaluate the nature of the material of the body in the face of nascent biomedical and healthcare technologies. Agi’s art work in this exhibition is exploring age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Alex Billingham (she/they) uses their lived experience of being disabled, trans, and neurodiverse to consider better modes of survival, combining Live Art / Experimental theatre and film / digital work within their practice. They’ve performed for Tate St Ives and have work in The New Art Gallery Walsall’s permanent collection where they are currently preparing for a major duo show in 2024. Alex’s art in this exhibition, a short film and 3D computer game, is inspired by AI and the human brain.

Andrea Mbarushimana is an artist and writer based in Coventry. Her third poetry pamphlet, Fatbergs was published in 2021 by KFS Press and she has published numerous poems and short stories in anthologies and literary magazines. She has had solo exhibitions at the Herbert in Coventry and curated and workshopped public responses to British Museum touring exhibitions. Andrea has been working with clinicians at the Royal Free Hospital in London to create art inspired by the experience of people living with epilepsy. 

Anja Borowicz Richardson is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and collaborator whose work explores the intersections of sculpture, text, sound, and technology. With a further background in human engineering and an interest in performed materiality, Anja employs multimodal approaches to explore imaginary overlaps, empathetic states, and connections with different bodies and spaces. Holding an MA in Fine Art from University College London and a PhD in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art, her work has been recognized with the Kenneth Armitage Young Sculptor Prize and featured in Aesthetica Art Prize magazine. Anja’s art in this exhibition is inspired by multifaceted nature of Stroke, and the rehabilitation process.

In Charlotte Dunn‘s practice she aims to question and transform traditions that form the way we analyse and comprehend our environment. She looks at manipulating scientific and natural history artefacts and locations, transforming their context through methods of presentation. Charlotte worked with SMQB researchers developing a mobile app that aids in treating leprosy in Nepal. Her art inspired by this focuses on the self-care aspect of rehabilitation and the feedback from patients.

Emily Scarrott is an artist, writer and researcher based in Birmingham and the Black Country, currently completing an art practice-led PhD. Emily is particularly interested in making durational and unstated performances which are informed by an ongoing preoccupation with science fiction and a curiosity in how we might practice desired worlds into being through a reimagining of care. Her exhibition piece is inspired by the diagnostic methods for Autism.

Felicity Inkpen. The combination of art and science has been key to Felicity’s life and work. Until April 2022, she prioritised science and maintained art part-time. Having gained a master’s degree in physics, and scientific publishing experience, Felicity went on to pursue the Wellcome Trust Neural Dynamics PhD programme at the University of Bristol. Here, she developed skills in experimental and computational neuroscience, applying biophysical approaches to examine neuron development. Felicity’s artworks in this exhibition were produced in response to research into immunotherapy as a treatment for liver cancer. 

Ian Andrews is excited and committed to trans-disciplinary projects believing it is crucial to develop a “creative curiosity” in audiences and participants that transcends barriers between specialisms. He co-founded the community arts group In-Public in 2016 and ran arts engagement projects with a range of partners including Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Midlands Arts Centre and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Ian’s artwork in this exhibition is inspired by the human circadian rhythm, neural activity in the brain and EEG data collected from patients.

Shannel James is a passionate visual artist based in the West Midlands. In this realm of creativity, sustainability and the merging of cultures, this is what defines her artistic heartbeat. Fuelled by a love for blending art and culture, she transforms second hand British vintage furniture, combining it with traditional African fabric to create vibrant canvases of expression where restoration and textiles interlace to breathe life into forgotten tales and ignite the flames of storytelling. Her work with SMQB looking at the correlation of deprivation and psychosis has inspired her piece in this exhibition.

Simon Peter Green is an artist photographer with an interest in social documentary, portraiture, visual sociology, environment and representation and aims to represent people in a dignified and progressive way. Simon was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Photography (1st) at Coventry University and has a Master of Fine Arts Photography (Distinction) at The University for the Creative Arts. Simon also worked as an international tour and production manager working with “A” list artists such as Wu- Tang Clan, Pusha T, Duke Dumont, Maya Jane Coles and Kanye West. Simon is working with SMQB researchers on DJ Beatmatching – A study in how mind and body coordinate rhythms.

Tom Ellis is a Midlands based artist who runs a creative company Curious Oddities. He’s a maker of fantastical creatures and magical artefacts. Inspired by fantasy, myths and storytelling, alongside a huge hoard of foraged and found materials, from Victoriana to Vegetation. From these he’s created a menagerie of wondrous beasts and objects to scare and delight, all with a unique story to tell.  Tom’s artwork in inspired by research on bacteria calls and the influx and efflux of antibiotics.

Vicky Roden is a multi-disciplinary artist with a socially engaged practice encompassing a variety of media including textiles, embroidery, taxidermy and Live Art. Primarily focussing on the sinister and archaic, much of her work explores death, ritual, and points where women have historically found personal power and agency. Vicky is working with researchers to create art inspired by extracellular vesicles; nanoparticles that effectively transport the specific building blocks you need to heal.