The brain Donors, Memory Ends and After I’m Gone.
– Ania Dabrowska (artist) and Bronwyn Parry (cultural geographer) 2008-2011.
This piece of work is presented as a set of prints and a set of separate sound pieces. I think this work had the biggest reaction from me, i think its this idea of the brain and then the person, rather than just looking at the brain objectively as this inanimate object. This collaboration between artist and geographer highlights the secrecy which is behind body donation by introducing the people who have elected to donate for research purposes after death. For this project some of Britians oldest prospective brain donors (mainly for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers disease) agreed to be photographed and interviewed about their lives and their involvement with brain research. It was really sad to see the images of the donors and then to hear their voices (in the sound piece, the interviews) and to hear what made them want to be involved in such a way.
Mr Albert Webb
Born in Peckham, age 89 in this portrait, Albert worked in print all his life. He started at 14 as a paper cutter on a guillotine. During the war he was called up to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, with which he was sent to Naples. He never saw any fighting, but took an opportunity to visit Rome as often as he could, where he loved going to the opera. His favourite was “Madame Butterfly”. He married Ellen straight after the war, in St. Mary’s Church in Ilford. He spent the last twenty-five working years at the News of the World. Ellen died, after fifty-seven years of marriage, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They used to spend almost all their time together enjoying many mutual hobbies, including bingo and knitting. He used to play bowls, and still likes to keep as active as he can. He is wearing the last jumper he knitted himself, depicting Lucy, his dog who died, was cremated, and whose ashes are kept in an ornate box in his living room. As well as wanting to help to find cure for dementia, Albert enjoys the thought of symbolic immortality that brain donation offers.
“If I’m a brain donor, they are going to take a part of my brain out, or some of it, or all of it, and I won’t be burnt to death when I get into a coffin, and that is why I said yes. And I shall be doing a bit of good perhaps to somebody.”
Mr Eddie Holden
Born in Norwich to a single working mum, age 81 here, Eddie was brought up by his Victorian grandparents who were strict but very kind. He volunteered for the army at seventeen, joining the Parachute Regiment. During the 2nd World War he was sent to the Far East where he took part in the liberation of prisoners of war from the Japanese camps. This, and not being able to find satisfying answers, made him doubt the idea of God, and to see religion as a ‘man made invention’. He has been married to Mrs Mary Irene Holden for over 50 years. He believes that the recipe for a successful and happy marriage lies in sharing everything and in trust. They live in Little Downham, near Ely, Cambridgeshire. Eddie most enjoyed being young, when life ‘seems so open’, but also looks forward to getting much older. He believes in social justice and writes about local issues to an Ely newspaper. He would like his brain to be used to discover cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s because he thinks, that: “losing memory, not knowing where you are, not knowing who you are, is a terrible thing”. He would like to be remembered for trying to do his best for human race.
“I look at the brain as the biggest computer in the world, because you can either go forward or you can go back. I’ve been through from horse and cart right through to space travel. What’s the next eighty odd years going to be? I would like to see more space travel. I think there are other worlds out there…”