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The Universal Heartbeat is an innovative and exciting art-science collaboration between visual artist Beata Maria Rzepecka and Fabrizio Smeraldi of the EECS Risk and Information Management group at the Queen Mary University, London. In their project authors aim to explore the connection between the body and the mind through art. This interactive installation allows visitors to listen to their heartbeats and it captures the interplay between the heartbeats of several individuals as they interact with each other through the artwork. For a purpose of this experience the authors intend to blend traditional art with state of the art of the signal processing. The installation features a number ofstop-motion animations of a heartbeat, created by sequencing through a series of frames hand-painted on glass. These animations synchronize with the visitors own heartbeat.
Beata Maria Rzepecka is a London-based visual artist: photographer, graphic designer and animator. She is a graduate of Goldsmiths, University of London with an MA in Image and Communication. Her latest research brings together the arts and medicine through a series of projects. In her self-initiated work and work Beata enjoys researching light and colour theories, visual perception, art symbolism and cultural studies.
Fabrizio Smeraldi is a lecturer in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science of Queen Mary, University of London. He has several years of experience, both with biomedical projects and with outreach activities. Specifically in the field of cardiology, he won the the EPSRC cross-faculty award Enhanced 3D Visualization of small vessels in the hear (ECSA1H4R/MCPA1A2R) in cooperationwith the William Harvey Research Institute (2012)
Many people think that art and medicine is an unusual combination. Contemporary medicine is based on science, factual evidence and technology. Art appears to be more personal, interpretational and subjective. As we can prove throughout the centuries, art has been used in treatments of health conditions across the world and across cultures.
Idea for the project the Universal Heartbeat originated from visual artist Beata Maria Rzepecka. After her lucrative collaboration with sonic artist Manabu Shimada at Goldsmiths University which resulted in a creation of an interactive installation, Beata decided to delve into the topic of art and medical science. In 2011, when she approached Fabrizio Smeraldi who was already involved with cardiac signal processing and heart-sound based interactivities, they started their project The Universal Heartbeat.
The installation has been exhibited twice at the Barts and Queen Mary Science Festival, in 2013, 2014 and 2015. It has received a lot of positive feedback from visitors. Their work raised a lot of interest from everyone: students, families and children, professionals and the local community. Recent show "Catharsis" at Gabriel Fine Art in a collaboration with Guy's and St Thomas Charity had excellent reviews from the Royal Society of Pharmacists.
Beata says: "The latest achievements in biomedical science helped us to understand more about the heart and how to control our heart rate. Scientists already proved that in particular situations our heartbeats can be synchronized with each other. Todays technologies made it possible for us to monitor our heart so easily, even by using our phones. However, the fact is that the heart disease is still a leading killer for both men and women around the world. It is also one of the most common and least effectively treated with traditional medicine conditions. It is related to stress to a large extent and positives results can only be achieved by regular relaxation. This mounting evidence for the role of the mind in disease and healing is leading to a greater acceptance of mindbody medicine."