For the Public

Heart art project

Through the FUSION group we are working with artists from the Edinburgh College of art to explore our heart research through art.

Entering a dark room an ultrasound scan of an unborn baby is projected onto a wall. The baby’s heartbeat is the only perceptible sound. Illuminated on a table is a stethoscope connected to speakers, allowing you to compare your heartbeat with the baby’s, and with the heartbeat of other viewers, as you explore the installation. The range of rhythms revealed are worthy of a percussive concert.

We rely on our heart constantly from before we are born, but there is nothing constant about the heart. As well as perpetually switching between a state of contraction and relaxation, it is also continually adapting both the rate and strength at which it beats. By sensing and adapting to its mechanical environment the heart can respond to changes in our body, resulting for example, from physical activity or diet. Through our research we are discovering how the heart is able to do this.

We had our first exhibition at Firbush on the banks of Loch Tay, to a group of other biologists. Our installation revealed a striking range of distinctive heartbeats and we had many interesting comments from viewers, including:

“how little a growing fetus really is and how vulnerable. Also how quickly their heart beats compared to us is really interesting”

“[it makes me think about] the ephemeral nature of mortality, and how we were all once a tiny mass of cells that grew up”

“development inside a body sounds like a submarine”

“[it makes me think about] the way each heart beat is so different, though they are all the same anatomically – judge not a heart for you know not how it beats”