Dr Jacqueline Donachie
Doctoral Prize Fellow
Jacqueline Donachie is an award-winning Scottish artist. She has forged an international reputation for a socially-engaged art practice that is rooted in an exploration of individual, family and collective identity and the structures, platforms and spaces (both actual and conceptual) through which it is constructed and supported. Her work encompasses sculpture, installations, photographs, films, drawings and performance and is research-based, collaborative and participatory. An ongoing interest in biomedical research, wellbeing and the relationship between families affected by genetic disorders and the scientific and medical world that both treats and researches them stems from the diagnosis of myotonic dystrophy in her own family almost 20 years ago.
Her recent gallery exhibitions include ‘Deep in The Heart of Your Brain’ at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow (2016), an exhibition that drew wide praise for the manner in which it addressed disability, inheritance and ageing, and Right Here Among Them (2017), a mid-career survey show at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh that was the recipient of the inaugural Freelands Award. She holds a PhD from Northumbria University that examined the capacity for artworks to influence research and care in the field of genetics, continuing a long collaborative engagement with biomedical, clinical and nursing researchers in both Newcastle and Glasgow.
Based on my experience as an artist whose career has engaged with the opportunities afforded by ‘sciart’, my research seeks to address the illustration problem by exploring new methods of working across art and science that challenge representations of inherited disability; previous works were concerned very specifically with myotonic dystrophy, an inherited neuromuscular disorder that affects one in 8000 people in the UK, and is the most common form of muscular dystrophy in adults. This doctoral research and associated outcomes raised the issue of invisibility, isolation, loss and social decline that can affect families affected by a multi-systemic inherited genetic condition, and was primarily concerned with the experiences of women (ageing, disabled women in particular). However, these factors are not singular to neuromuscular disorders, and can be seen across a range of societal issues that also run through families; poverty, disrupted/ limited education and poor health are recognised factors in many lower socio-economic groups, with or without a genetic condition.
In investigating myotonic dystrophy (DM), the co-morbidity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children and young people affected by the condition is increasingly highlighted at both family and anecdotal level, and is now identified as an area requiring further investigation (Angeard, 2017).[i] I am now working on a new study, based on previous research experience, that will contribute to this gap in understanding through the use of filmed interviews as the platform for new artworks. My ongoing post-doctoral research will therefore continue to address what combination of activity can connect knowledge in both fields in ways that can lead to high quality public outputs that have a direct impact on research pathways and ultimately policy, working specifically with young men affected by both DM and autism, and their fathers.
[i] Angeard, N et al. (2017) Childhood-onset form of myotonic dystrophy type 1 and autism spectrum disorder: Is there comorbidity? Neuromuscular Disorders , Volume 28 , Issue 3 , 216 - 221