AXNS are thrilled to announce the launch of a new project bringing together installation artist Madi Boyd and neuroscientists from the University of Cambridge to explore transitions of consciousness. Focusing on patient experiences of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Boyd will create an immersive multi-sensory installation that challenges states of consciousness and perception of the edge of the body.

The installation will be exhibited in Cambridge and London in February 2018.



Complex regional pain syndrome

The complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a rare and poorly understood pain disorder that usually affects hands, arms and feet. CRPS is typically triggered by a minor incident (e.g., injury, surgery, or vaccine) that leads to severe and long-lasting pain that is accompanied by swelling, changes in skin colour, texture and temperature of the affected limb.

From a medical perspective, the intensity of the pain perceived by patients is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury. Sometimes even the slightest touch or change in temperature can provoke unbearable pain. Patients characteristically,do not engage or entirely ignore their painful limb in their daily routines (e.g. washing it less frequently) while not being consciously aware of their neglect behaviour.


Dynamic body perceptions

CPRS is studied by neuroscientists interested in consciousness—such as the research group of Dr. Tristan Bekinschtein—as a disorder of body perception. Alongside pain, patients can perceive their limb to be distorted (i.e. the limb feels much larger than it actually is) and some feel the desire to amputate their limb, rejecting it as part of their own body.

A subset of CRPS patients experience even more bizarre distortions of body perception once they close their eyes, for example they feel their hand growing disproportionately, they feel their fingers are merging, or they feel a gap between their wrist and elbow. However, when patients open their eyes and look at their affected limb, their percept flips back to ‘normal’.


Madi Boyd

“Since graduating in Fine Art Sculpture from The Slade (UCL), 2005, I have exhibited nationally and internationally my installations and short film works, including at The Science Museum, London (2011-12), Kinetica (2011,12, 13), the BFI (2010), and as a Transmediale satellite show at Art Laboratory Berlin (2013). In 2013, my work was selected for an exhibition at The Science Gallery, Dublin, curated by Professor Richard Wiseman. This show toured the USA and Canada during 2014/15 and has been shown in Malaysia and Germany. My 3D holographic films have been screened worldwide, at public and private events including the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and in Macau, China through out 2014/15.

My work is primarily moving image installation, a practice I developed around the interaction between built space, moving image and the human perceptual system. I have collaborated with neuro-scientists from UCL (Prof Mark Lythogoe and Dr Beau Lotto), and am currently collaborating with an experimental cognitive psychologist (Dr Polly Dalton from Royal Holloway). Through this collaboration I aim to explore how the experience of moving image can be modulated by multi-sensory cues, particularly in relation to touch and to body posture. This will involve research into cross-modal attention and perception, and, for me, elucidates film and aesthetic theory, and widens my own aesthetic language. I find the fusion of film and sculptural environment is an incredibly compelling way to develop new immersive experiences.”


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