There is something fascinating about the tools which surgeons wield, they can invoke powerful associations: they inspire fear and awe, carry connotations of butchery as well as healing, and are synonymous with intricacy and skill – in manufacture as well as in use. They are the means to open the body and put it back together – instruments of a power simultaneously dreadful and divine.
Using photography, Artist in Residence Elaine Duigenan has explored instruments’ contradictory status as the therapeutic extension of the surgeon’s hands and as objects designed to destroy living tissue. Drawing on the rich historical collections of the Hunterian Museum and bringing together the expertise of surgeons, historians and instrument manufacturers, her work reanimates the instrument as a thing of beauty and dread.
This exhibition and the Armamentaria project has been funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award.