“The Sensitive Project” (2005) was a collaboration between Anna Dumitriu and Professor Helen Smith (former Chair of Primary Care at Brighton and Sussex Medical School) and students from Varndean School to create a participatory work about the impact of allergy on the lives of young people. The project explored notions around the hygiene hypothesis and how the immune system works. Artworks included textiles and installations, including an intervention on the school playground which disappeared each time it rained. The project enabled a greater understanding of allergy combining research and innovative participatory and performance art techniques.
“This project was borne out of a collaboration with Professor Helen Smith from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and links art and science; specifically installation, intervention and performance art to allergy. I believe that to fully express any concept or idea both art and science are needed and through art we can create a synthesis between our emotional responses to the world and scientific analysis.
Allergies affect everyone on a personal level, if not at first hand, through friends and family. But there is a huge amount of misunderstanding about how allergic reactions actually happen, what effects they have physically and what the best ways of dealing with them are. We chose to work with year 9 and 10 pupils on this because as an age group they are often most affected, from an artistic point of view this was a conceptual choice and adds, for me, a deeper layer of meaning to the final artworks. From a scientific point of view it has been about creating understanding of the subject for the students but also about feeding back into patient management strategies some of what has been learned from actually working with the students.
The gifted and talented science students from Varndean School made constant connections and suggestions to the development of all the artworks. I hope the students have learned new ways of expressing their ideas and how art can help them do that, especially when it exists outside the traditional gallery space in their everyday lives. We worked with installation, performance, interventions and even GPS to create a map.”(Anna Dumitriu, 2005)
Anna Dumitriu thanks John Lamb, former Head of Science at Varndean School and Phoenix Art Space for their support with the project.
“The Sensitive Project” was funded by a Wellcome Trust Pulse Grant.