Join Emma Richardson (UCL History of Art) and Sarah Wilkes (UCL Institute of Making) for an exploration of toxicology and creativity. Agatha Christie used her wartime knowledge of substances such as arsenic, phosphorous and radium built up through working as an apothecary’s assistant and dispenser to develop her plots: these materials were murderously slipped into tea, tonic and chocolates. This interactive display and talk traces our reliance on hazardous materials in art and industrial practice throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It explores how and why modern artists and craftspeople revelled in the creative potential of these potentially poisonous materials, telling stories of risks and rewards with artefacts from University College London (where Christie worked as a dispenser during the Second World War) and its varied museum collections and materials library.
Emma Richardson is coordinator for the History of Art with Material Studies (HAMS) undergraduate programme and the Materials Studies Laboratory Manager at UCL. Emma co-curated the exhibition ‘Dangerous Diaries: Exploring Risks and Rewards in Fabrication’ part of a collaborative research project with the Institute of Making, studying the perceptions of risk and how approaches to hands-on engagement with materials have changed over time.
Sarah Wilkes is Research Fellow at the Institute of Making. Her Wellcome Trust fellowship project, Material Anxieties, develops a novel combination of methods to examine how materials used in healthcare applications mediate clinician and patient experiences in positive and negative ways. Previous collaborative, interdisciplinary projects include Hands of X (EPSRC), PhysFeel (UCL Grand Challenges) and Light.Touch.Matters (EUFP7).