Pata Pica Photo Studio – a snapshot of modern medicine by Faith Whitehouse

In the Wellcome Trust’s exhibition ‘Foreign Bodies’, six artists took up residencies in medical research centres across the world. The result was spectacular and artists came back with artworkswhich embodied the ever-changing scene of modern medicine. A work which showcased this  for me was ‘Pata Pica Photo Studio’ (meaning ‘get the picture’ in Swahili) by the multi-media artists Miriam Syowia Kyambi and James Muriuki.

The piece was created in 2012 and the aim was to explore how health researchers and the community worked together and how they perceived each other. They set up an open studio in Kilifi town and invited residents to have their photo taken inside. Props were placed in the studio that related to the medical research carried out by the KERMI- Wellcome Trust Centre. The props were props of education, religion, money, power and context showing the transient social landscape which James is interested in.

What was striking about these portraits was the interaction that the figures in the photographs had with their props.  Some held flowers, others leant against a table or simply stoond there looking outwards to the viewer.

It was clear from the outset that that Miriam and James wanted the viewer to take on the role that the people in their portraits had. This was complimented by the curators (and artists) setting up the same scene in the photographs in the gallery. Here the viewer was invited to take their own photograph in the ‘pata pica photo studio’ creating their own scenario and snapshot of modern medicine. 

To find out more about the project: http://www.wellcomecollection.org/whats-on/art-in-global-health/syowia-kyambi–james-muriuki/production.aspx

Foreign Bodies was at the Wellcome Trust until 16th March 2014.

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