Revealing the alchemist’s secrets
A remote museum event for adults
10.04.2021 - 01.08.2021
A remote museum event for friends, family or colleagues, sharing the history of pharmacy and the challenges of the alchemist’s profession in an entertaining way.
How long has it been since you visited a museum with friends, family or colleagues and saw something unique up close to investigate it more closely and joke about it together? The Museum of Pharmacy offers larger and smaller groups a trip to the past in an informal atmosphere, during which it will be possible to learn the nuances of the history of pharmacy, from experimental collecting of plants to a modern pharmacist’s assistant’s room. During the remote event, guests will be able to assess how strong was alchemists’ sense of humor and whether they were really doing magic, as well as to discover a number of secrets, such as what is an alchemist’s biggest professional failure. The event will take place on the Zoom platform and guests will be kept engaged by conversations on the site https://pollev.com/thegift077, which we recommend to open on the phone before the lesson. The site does not require registration. You will just need a good mood, internet connection, a charged phone and a computer for an exciting and exploratory get-together.
This programme is best suited for: adults
Lesson duration: 1h
Payment method: prepayment
Lesson fee: 50 EUR
Maximum number of participants per session: 25 people
Language of activity: Latvian, English
Apply by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The permanent exhibition of the Pauls Stradiņš Medicine History Museum in 2021 will feature artworks by Katrīna Neiburga and Jānis Noviks – a creative response of both artists to museum’s collections and exhibits. This exhibition will launch the museum’s redefinition and residency programme entitled “Blood Count”.
Katrīna Neiburga and Jānis Noviks – active Latvian contemporary art practitioners with good knowledge of creative research methods and modern technologies – have highlighted the museum’s less noticeable and silenced aspects.
Jānis Noviks brings patients’ voices to the museum exhibition – they are as impersonal as disease descriptions in an encyclopaedia entry. At the foundation of his sound installation are vinyl recordings from the second edition of the Soviet-published Great Medical Encyclopaedia (1956–1964). The records are a compilation of sounds produced by the human body during pathological processes, as well as examples of stuttering and speech affected by mental disorders.
Jānis Noviks’ composition is a reflection on the audio-technical aspects of patient ‘auscultation’. The space selected for playback is a room devoted to 19th century medicine, featuring an exhibit of a collection of early stethoscopes. This medical device was invented by René Laennec, a major driving force in early clinical medicine. The stethoscope’s success was ensured by two factors. Firstly, clinical medicine allowed the auscultated diagnoses to be confirmed in the hospital autopsy rooms after the patient’s death. (It could be argued this cultivation of the imaginative skills of visualising sound, turning it into a virtual album of pathological anatomy, was the first step on the road to ultrasonography.) Secondly, the acoustic cylinder tactfully set a socially significant distance between doctor and patient.
A dedicated flutist in his youth, René Laennec included detailed descriptions of the tonal and rhythmic aspects of ‘pulmonary rales’ and ‘heart gallops’ in the manuals of his acoustic diagnostic device. In addition, his experiences during the reign of terror during the French Revolution led him to the notion that many ailments are the result of traumatic events – and therefore, for diagnostic purposes, it is prudent to also interview the patient.
Katrīna Neiburga has used the residency to add to the museum’s considerable portrait gallery, which is dominated by commissioned works from the 1950s – paintings created from photos or fine art reproduction photographs. Set in opulent frames from the turn of the 20th century, these portraits hark back to a time when an impressively framed oil painting was still a medium that could convey social prestige and authority.
For her portraits, Katrīna Neiburga employs the technological means that are available to 21st century video art, but keeps away from the talking head format, since the subjects she has chosen for her story are obstinate and reckless characters who operate outside any kind of box. She found her protagonists in Hugo Glaser’s book ‘The Drama of Medicine’, which is devoted to physicians who have carried out risky medical experiments on themselves: by ingesting the cholera vibrio, spending a night in the sweat-soaked nightshirt of a typhoid patient, or infecting a self-inflicted cut with pus or blood from a plague, leprosy or syphilis sufferer. Among them is Polish-born research physician Clara Fonti of the National Cancer Institute in Milan. To challenge the assumption that malignant tumours are caused by viruses, she rubbed her breast in a patient’s open cancer lesion, which led to serious blood poisoning. Just another example of a blood test one may encounter at the museum…
Katrīna Neiburga creates video and environmental installations and processual art, as well as video works and scenography for opera and theatre productions. She is the first recipient of the Purvītis Prize. Together with Andris Eglītis, she represented Latvia at the 56th Venice Biennale. Neiburga’s recent projects have been displayed in exhibitions such as Survival Kit 11 (Riga, 2020), Wilderness (Drusti, 2020), Riga International Biennale of Contemporary Art RIBOCA (2018), as well as in solo exhibitions: Hair (KIM? Contemporary Art Center, 2019), Playground for Accepting Mortality(with Andris Eglītis and Jānis Noviks, Klosterruine, Berlin, 2019) and Pickled Long Cucumbers (Italienska Palatset, Växjö, Sweden, 2019).
Jānis Noviks works mostly in interactive large format installations that tend to focus on everyday phenomena, sounds or body movement experiences. Recently, Noviks has participated in the Sculpture Quadrennial (Riga, 2020) and several exhibitions: Wilderness (Drusti, 2020), 7kas (Rīga, 2019), JARO (Riga, 2019), Playground for Accepting Mortality (with Katrīna Neiburga and Andris Eglītis, Klosterruine, Berlin, 2019) and Survival Kit 10 (Riga, 2018).
About the Residency Programme “Blood Count”
The 2021 programme will take place in a form of institutional self-criticism during a time of change. The global experience of the pandemic has brought a tension into social thinking on health-related issues. That is why it is crucial that medicine, as a science of nature and technology, recognizes the perspective of social history, anthropology and cultural theory.
For the whole year, the Museum will work as a multidisciplinary research laboratory, conducting a complete blood count and analysing its own future prospects.
Blood Count, the museum’s research project residency programme, invites participants from outside the field to work with the museum’s collections, library resources and loft archives. This brings a prism of different outlooks and experiences to the research and helps to diversify the range of professional approaches and tools in working on future exhibitions.
Starting from 13 May, MVM offers a cycle of conversations on health, which will be led by social anthropologist Anna Žabicka. The cycle speaks of health as a pluralistic experience and reality. How to understand this? “The body, the patient, the disease, the doctor, the technician, the technology: af all there is more than just one,” writes philosopher Annemarie Mol. Even when the diagnosis is the same, as a patient with a diagnosis X, I am a completely different patient for one specialist than for another. Manifestations of the body, of disease and health, their course, representation, and experience are a multi-faceted, multi-layered and flowing reality, the formation involves a set of many changing factors. My health changes from day to day, from environment to environment, it encounters everything that is around me and lives with what is already in me. As a human being, I too am in a constant relationship with “more than the human world,” meaning other living beings, the inanimate nature, the man-made environment, technology and physical, political, social, and mental structures, as well as our fellow human beings.
In this MVM conversation cycle, together with medical and social science experts and professionals, we will talk about the human being and their health, trying to see it and cover it on a much wider scale than the “norm” which does not require medical intervention. In six talks, we will address issues such as health inequalities in Latvia, the place of people who use drugs in society and their access to health care, the impact of the urban environment on health behavior, food and food chains, as well as loneliness and sexual health and sexuality. At the heart of the conversation is the human being – one’s relationship with oneself, with the environment, time, space and socio-political structure – and the health we experience. See you online in the talks on the museum’s Facebook page @MVMLV!
About the host
MVM talks will be led by social anthropologist Anna Žabicka. Anna is currently writing a dissertation on aging and care in the Latvian countryside, based on a long-term ethnographic study in a small Latvian rural nursing home. Anna specializes in medical anthropology, with a special academic interest in aging, care, health and social inequality, death and kinship. She holds master’s degrees in social anthropology from Wayne State University in the United States and Riga Stradins University (2014) . She is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Vienna (Universität Wien) and teaches Anthropology of Medicine, Death and Kinship at Riga Stradins University.
About the ESF project
The cycle of video conversations “MVM talks”is implemented as part of the European Social Fund project No. 18.104.22.168/16/I/001 “Complex health promotion and disease prevention measures”. The objective of the ESF project is improving access to health promotion and disease prevention services for the whole population of Latvia, particularly for groups susceptible to risks of territorial and social exclusion and poverty, through implementing nation-wide measures. The project is scheduled to be running through 31 December 2023. For more details on activities carried out as part of the ESF project, visit the website of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Latvia at https://www.vm.gov.lv/lv/veselibas-veicinasanas-un-slimibu-profilakse-sam-924 or the project’s website esparveselibu.lv.
In 2021/2022, Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine is running a diverse public event programme as part of the ESF project “Complex health promotion and disease prevention measures”, exploring various topical public health-related subjects. Among the forthcoming events are video interviews and discussions on relevant issues of public health, a mental health-themed exhibition (in association with Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art), practical classes exploring the connection between human diet and environmental and ecological problems and presentation of a board game explaining the principles of the human immune system, available for download. The list of planned events also includes travelling theatre performances/exhibitions dealing with the subjects of addiction reduction and healthy diet with the help of copies of objects from the museum collection. New educational events are planned, aligning educational programs of the museum with the demands of the Skola 2030 programme for competence-oriented education.
The objective of the ESF project “Complex health promotion and disease prevention measures” is improving access to health promotion and disease prevention services for the whole population of Latvia, particularly for groups susceptible to risks of territorial and social exclusion and poverty, through implementing nation-wide measures.
As part of the project, a number of measures of disease prevention (in four healthcare priority sectors), general public health promotion and nation-wide health promotion for specific vulnerable target groups and local communities will be implemented. The project likewise includes public health studies and supervision of health promotion and disease prevention measures. Awareness-raising and publicity events will also be held as part of the project.
Collaboration partners of the ESF project are: Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Control; Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine; Health Inspectorate; State Agency of Medicines and State Sports Medicine Centre (reorganised; since 2018 ‒ Latvian Anti-Doping Bureau).
The project is scheduled to be running through 31 December 2023.
For more details on activities carried out as part of the ESF project ‘Complex health promotion and disease prevention measures’, visit the website of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Latvia at https://www.vm.gov.lv/lv/veselibas-veicinasanas-un-slimibu-profilakse-sam-924 or the project’s website esparveselibu.lv.