Brains at Wellcome Collection

The opening night private-view of Brains, The Mind as Matter. As their leaflet puts it: this exhibition asks not what our brains do for us, but what we have done to brains.

A slightly impromptu Cog Night (as Michael had muddled the dates of our previous arrangements). Michael and Ocky went and met up with ex-Cogger Claire Turner and Wellcome Collection’s Rachel Collins and Marianne Dear amongst others.

Opening night parties are always a slightly odd affair. There’s free drinks to be had and lots of air kissing to be done, and there are the inevitable speeches to endure. But Wellcome Collection events are a little different because the speeches are from genuinely fascinating people, talking passionately about the subject they’ve devoted their life to.

I definitely found it difficult to concentrate with Jon Snow checking out the Dolphin brain with me

Guest Curator, Marius Kwint  (University of Portsmouth) artfully summed up his exhibition, he explained how the brain had only recently been adopted as the centre of our being, and how we look at the past through the skewed lens of present knowledge. He explained that this was a study of reactions to the brain not a neurological investigation of the brain. And he uncomfortably explained how many of the human remains, had been procured in dubious and unethical ways.At the end of the speeches we went into the actual exhibition. I’ve been to nearly all of the exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection so I knew to expect a high standard. Brains certainly didn’t disappoint in that respect, the space oozes professionalism and a desire to do things properly.  But, for me, that slickness wasn’t enough. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by other Cog Nights (previous Wellcome Collection shows and our visit to the Hunterian) but I felt like I’d seen most of it before.

Maybe it was the atmosphere of the opening night, maybe it was the difficult juxtaposition of the subject matter and the party backdrop (I definitely found it difficult to concentrate with Jon Snow checking out the Dolphin brain with me); I’ll probably pop in again and see if I get more out of it, second time around. It is free, after all.

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