The Science Museum in London commissioned American artist Jenny Holzer’s FOR SCIENCE for its new Medicine Galleries.

The work comprises two stone benches that offer a place for reflection and respite within the galleries. Each bench is inscribed with the words of a different writer who recorded their experiences of medical treatment. ‘Illness is the night-side of life’ is a line from Susan Sontag’s 1978 book Illness as Metaphor, and ‘What kind of life exists without language?’ is from Paul Kalanithi’s memoir When Breath Becomes Air.

Sontag wrote her book while she was being treated for breast cancer. Kalanithi was an Indian-American neurosurgeon whose memoir was published posthumously in 2016 after
his death from lung cancer.

Holzer was born in Ohio and studied at Ohio University, University of Chicago and at Rhode Island School of Design. She is one of the world’s most significant neo-conceptual artists, best known for her large-scale texts presented in the form of LED signs and light projections. Among her other works are stone benches inscribed with texts installed at Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and at Barnard College in New York City.

The five rooms in the Science Museum’s Medicine: the Wellcome Galleries opened in 2019. The benches in FOR SCIENCE are a site-specific installation for the Faith, Hope and Fear room, a display that explores faith in medicine alongside religious faith.

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