The Void (2004-6)

Authors: White, N.

Start date: 2005

The practice-led research project was developed initially at National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), London 2004-5, selected from a national call and then funded by The Wellcome Trust Experiment Fund. The work explored the relationship between scientific and artistic approaches to self-experimentation as research. The project revisited Yves Klein’s 1958 exhibition ‘Le Vide’, in which methylene blue given to visitors turned their urine blue. This event was used to explore the moral and ethical limits of research through an approach of re-enactment which has seen re-emergence in contemporary arts discourse in recent years. After refusal from the ethics committee of NIMR to allow a clinical/cultural-trial to measure the likely effects on the original participants, the work was re-conceived for a space in the visual arts, and conducted as a perrformance event in which visitors were invited to self-experiment. Critical texts and a video shot on location in the Betty Ford Clinic website were also included. Following its performance and exhibition at International3 and Barbican Gallery, the Department for the History and Science of Ideas, Max Planck Institute, ran a workshop and event inspired by the work; Introspective Self-Rapports: Shaping Ethical and Aesthetic Concepts 1850-2006. Dissemination happened in a variety of formats in addition to the live event and exhibitons, including; Keynote seminar at workshop at The Max Planck Institute (5.5.06) Pre-print publication by Max Planck Institute (November 2006) including an essay by Neal White – Lets Experiment with Ourselves and CD video documentation of live event in Berlin; Documentation also exhibited at Long Night of the Museums, MPI, Berlin,19.5.06; An essay in the Virtual Laboratory by Katrin Soldhju, MPI (, ‘The Ethics of the Void’. An article by Neal White was commissioned for Contemporary Magazine. Issue No. 81. s and featured in Artists and Alchemists publication for Sherborne House, 2006.

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