Days to go: 8. Talking brains with Dr Marius Kwint


Brains: The Mind as Matter proved to be the most popular exhibition ever staged at Wellcome Collection, a free venue in London for the ‘incurably curious’ that explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future.

Featuring more than 150 objects including brain specimens, medical and scientific devices, specially commissioned artworks, videos and photography, Brains followed the long quest to collect, classify, manipulate and decipher the most unique and mysterious of human organs, whose secrets continue to confound and inspire.

We caught up with Dr Marius Kwint, curator and author of the accompanying book, The Mind As Matter, to talk about his involvement with Wellcome Collection, why the exhibition proved so popular and his must-see Latitude performance!

Don’t miss Marius Kwint’s inspiring talk in the Literary Arena at Latitude 2012 and many more fantastic acts over the course of the weekend; head over to the website line-up section for full details.

Which latitude are you on right now?

In Winchester: in the middle of England, but not quite Middle England! It’s the historic capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex, and once one of the most important cities in Europe, and it remains very beautiful and quite small. But I was raised in Suffolk - in Ipswich, to be precise - so I know the flatlands and big skies of East Anglia quite well too. My father, who was originally Dutch but emigrated to the US after WW2, was a teacher on the now abandoned Cold War US Air Force base at Woodbridge.

Tell us what to expect from your performance at Latitude this year.

Expect to see some brains! And to hear about them.

Can you give us some background on the Wellcome Collection?

Wellcome Collection is London’s free destination for the incurably curious. It’s located in a fine building opposite Euston Station. It includes a permanent collection of medical exhibits and the world famous Wellcome Library, a temporary exhibition space, state-of-the-art lecture, conference and performance facilities, a Blackwell’s bookshop and a convivial café!  It was formed in 2007 as part of the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest charity for international research in the biomedical sciences and related arts and humanities. The Trust was founded by the bequest of pharmaceutical entrepreneur and extraordinary collector Henry Wellcome (1853-1936).

How did you become involved with the Trust? Tell us about the exhibition you recently helped curate.

I’m a lecturer in visual culture at the University of Portsmouth, but I’ve been involved with the Trust in various small consulting roles for at least a decade. I’ve got longstanding research, teaching and curatorial interests in science, art and design - sometimes relating specifically to brains. The Wellcome Collection has a licence for the display of human tissue, and has in recent years staged successful exhibitions on various parts of the human body and their cultural meanings—the heart, skin, and skeleton, for example.

So I suppose the brain was its next choice of organ, and Wellcome Collection invited me to curate an exhibition on this in 2010. I thought the show should basically be about the collecting of brains, an activity which has sometimes had a disturbing history. Of course several others contributed a lot to the curating process too, most notably Lucy Shanahan of Wellcome Collection, who was wonderful at finding exhibits and showing me the ropes. The exhibition ran from late March to mid-June this year, and was the most popular that the Wellcome had ever staged, attracting over 1,400 visitors on average per day, and worldwide press coverage.

Some of this public interest may have been because we had parts of a few famous brains on display, including computer pioneer Charles Babbage’s, body-snatcher William Burke’s, and a couple of microscope slides showing thin sections of Albert Einstein’s brain.

Who’s your must-see performance at Latitude 2012?

There’s too many to choose from! I’m looking forward to seeing Lang Lang, Paul Weller, Benjamin Zephaniah, Tony Harrison, John McCarthy...

If any artist could do a guest appearance with you at Latitude who would that be and why?

I’m not sure he’d describe himself as an artist, but (besides my interviewer Hannah McGill, of course) I’ve long been an admirer of John Pilger.

Tell us a surprising fact about you

I’ve recently worked as a guide for visually impaired triathletes at the European and World championship para-triathlon races, helping them to swim, bike and run safely.

What’s been your weirdest festival experience?

OK, I’ll confess: I’m a festival virgin! I’ve never actually been to a proper stay-over festival like this before...

It’s our seventh edition…summarise Latitude in seven words

Eclectic, stimulating, summery and warm (I hope!)

Fill in the gap, “Baa baa Latitude sheep, have you any________?"

Cerebral cortices

See you at Latitude!

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all