The Cultural Negotiation of Science is a research group based at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK that brings together artists, academics and research students whose practices engage with expert cultures across a broad spectrum of science and technology. Collectively, the group is characterised by a performative approach to the production of knowledge that actively challenges the use of art as an instrumental or illustrative device to interpret science.
In 2013, CNoS produced Extraordinary Renditions, an exhibition and symposium for the British Science Festival that showed how artists, in a variety of different ways, work with renditions of science outside its bio-medical, fundamental or technical parameters. The project took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK allowing a large public audience access to the compelling questions thrown up when artists negotiate scientific practices – questions that often require artists to perform ‘extraordinary renditions’ across the ethical and political spaces in which personal vulnerability and risk-taking is impossible to avoid.
CNoS has developed out of a pioneering history for cross-disciplinary, practice-based research at Northumbria University, including a long-term partnership the Department of Arts had with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. In 2011 The Royal Photographic Society Awards presented the partnership with the Combined Royal Colleges Medal for the outstanding contribution to the application of photography in the service of medicine and surgery - an award sponsored by the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Prior to this, the partnership’s activities ranged from commissioning the Japanese Ryu Artists Group to create a garden at Wansbeck Hospital (2003), hosting the sculptor Ashley Hipkin’s Leverhulme Trust residency in the newly built Hexham Hospital (2006-7), and supervising Christina Kolaiti’s AHRC funded PhD, an exploration of photographic self-portraiture as a means of helping trainee doctors empathise with the personal narratives of their patients (2007-9). Much of the partnership’s work was facilitated by the University’s postgraduate researchers including the 29 hospital exhibitions curated by Poyan Yee for her PhD ‘Healing Through Curatorial Dialogue’ (2009) and Iku Tsuchiya’s Jo Spence Fellowship which, under the title ‘Images of Trust’, won the prestigious Nikon Salon ‘Miki Jun Award’ (2005) and The Observer ‘Seeds of Change’ competition (2006).
By the time the partnership won the medal at the Royal Photographic Society Awards, Northumbria University had become a recipient of an AHRC Block Grant. With funded practice-based PhDs such as Marianne Wilde’s exploration of the visual metaphors employed by researchers at the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Daksha Patel’s investigation into drawing and medical imaging technologies and Jacqueline Donachie’s study of sisters with myotonic dystrophy (prize winner at the AHRC's 10th Anniversary ‘Research In Film’ Awards), the critical context for CNoS took shape.