About Face and A Pint of Science

As promised, I began my adventures round Glasgow yesterday, and made not one, but two fun discoveries: ‘About Face’, a photography exhibition by Maud Sulter in Hillhead Library, and the Pint of Science Festival, which is essentially combining informal talks about science-y things, with get-togethers in pubs.

‘About Face’ is a collection of ten Polaroid portraits of influential Scottish poets. I have to admit I was a little dubious after going to the front desk of Hillhead Library to ask where the exhibition was, only to be met with a blank look from the girl, until I was pointed in the right direction by her helpful co-worker. Once I had seen the pictures, however, I was surprised at how disinterested she was, and then gave myself a metaphorical pat on the head for being cultured and finding a fun secret place all by myself. Personally, I love Polaroids, and the idea of only having one chance to capture an image. The portraits are very intimate, in some cases emotional, and I really enjoyed taking my time looking at each one looking for clues about the character of each poet. I found them all really thought provoking, and am hoping that my musings on their characters will form the basis of my bestselling novel when I’m rich and famous.

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My view from the top of the lovely Hillhead Library

I liked that in a few of the portraits, there were details that suggested eccentric artists, like Edywn Morgan’s crazy patterned shirt, and Stewart Conn’s necklace, with a pendant of a half moon with a face engraved on it. Some of the poets look comfortable having their pictures taken, while others range from mildly awkward to Janet Paisley’s rabbit-caught-in-headlights look. The most commanding subject, however, is Sulter herself, whose self-portrait is the last in the collection, Her black shirt with a deep V-neck, and slightly worn in deep red lipstick give her a sultry, but also sleek and polished appearance. Her expression is defiant and commanding, so that she looks in complete control of the image, and this made me think about the power of a photographer over their subject, and how much control they have over how the image looks, and, at least in the case of people like me, who like to over-analyse, how the person is perceived.

The Pint of Science Festival, I openly admit, is not something I would not normally have chosen to go to, being a decidedly artsy person, having been put off pretty much all science-related things by my crazy medic parents. However, as I am in adventure mode, and a friend (an equally artsy friend, I should add) asked if I wanted to go to any of the events, I said yes, only a little influenced by the prospect of the talks being in a pub, so that if all the science jargon went over my head, gin would be readily available. However, I was pleasantly surprised, and genuinely found the talks really interesting. The particular event we went to was about neuroscience, which, being totally truthful, I picked because of my love of Derek Shepherd (if you’re unfamiliar, he is the beautiful neurosurgeon in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ – worth a Google I promise).

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If all lectures had gin, my learning would be greatly enhanced.

Usually, my issue with science-y events is I either find there are so many technical terms that I remain confused throughout, or if the speaker is aware their audience is not made up of scientific geniuses, they oversimplify to the point of being patronising. In this case, there were three speakers, with appropriate gin breaks between each short talk, and apart from a couple of instances where they got over-excited with the techy terms, then compensated with a very simplified explanation, I found them all very engaging and enthusiastic, while keeping their talks fairly informal. The first talk was a brief history of neuroscience, using unusual, interesting case studies, which helped keep the talk personal rather than theoretical. The second was a discussion of the treatment of neurological disorders, and the third, my personal favourite, was about the future of neuroscience, by a “failed comedian turned neurologist”, who I personally thought was hilarious. He was very personable, and made his speech relevant and relatable, by pointing out that the aim of neuroscience is to learn more about how the brain works to improve people’s lives, so that even an arty person like yours truly has to admit, it’s an important field.

All in all, I had a fabulous Monday, cushioning a little learning about science with an arty morning and gin.

Kirsty x

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