In association with the exhibition IT IS AS IF, Block 336 hosted a pop-up event in which Roger Kneebone and Dr Laura Coates performed a live simulation of a trauma surgery. Taking place alongside the immersive video installation IT IS AS IF by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier the simulated operation was similar to that re-enacted by Roger Kneebone from memory in the exhibition’s central film work.
Roger Kneebone is Professor of Surgery at Imperial College London and a Wellcome Engagement Fellow. For the evening’s event, an inflatable surgery ‘igloo’ became an operating theatre. Originally designed as a training tool by Kneebone, in this setting, the simulation allowed audiences to come close to experiencing a world, usually hidden from view to the public.
Much of Kneebone’s current research is focused on simulation. He leads an unorthodox and creative research group, bringing together clinicians, educationalists, computer scientists, psychologists, social scientists, design engineers and experts from the visual and performing arts. Throughout 2014 and 2015 Phaophanit and Oboussier worked closely with him and together they have been investigating the connections between art practice, language and the techniques and discourses of medical surgery.
The central film work in IT IS AS IF focuses on Roger Kneebone’s hands performing surgery from memory. Patient, wider medical team and operating theatre are absent here. By focusing on the movement of the surgeon’s hands, the piece becomes a poetic choreography of delicate, unspoken, expressive gestures that explores the artists’ interest in language, memory, gesture and loss.
The simulation was followed by a panel discussion with artists. Themes relating to memory in the work ‘It is as if’, as well as ideas relating to way in which the body ‘learns’ and ‘remembers’ were explored. The ideas that led to the project, its background and the points of intersection between the practices of the artists, surgeon and medical team were also discussed.