“Trauma – Built to break” exhibition opens at Science Gallery Dublin

Katarzyna reviews the new exhibition at the science gallery that explores the theme of trauma.


The new exhibition at the science gallery explores how trauma may affect our bodies, our brains and our minds. It conveys different ways of dealing with a traumatic experience and conveys its aftermath. Everyone experiences trauma, hence visitors of all ages and backgrounds will find pieces that they can identify with. At the same time, there are pieces that will allow you to experience ‘virtual trauma’ which will allow you to understand another person’s emotions and thoughts. I would strongly recommend to visit the Science Gallery to everyone.  

Physical trauma

The pieces downstairs strongly relate mainly physical trauma. You can compare the structures of helmets used in different sports, by looking at their cross sections. The study by teams in Trinity College Dublin and IT Tallaght on how much trauma can helmets protect your head from is displayed nearby. In the middle you will see three beautifully knitted skulls and a knitted model of the spine. This piece by Nola Avienne was inspired after she had a very serious accident. She fell through a trap door and suffered head and spinal injury, broken ribs and broken sacrum and lost a few teeth. Her body healed faster than her mind, so one day she decided to knit herself a new spine, then a new skull and a new brain. This piece captures how art, like knitting for example, can be very therapeutic, because physical trauma is always accompanied with psychological trauma.

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Upstairs there is a series of very intense pieces. Three pieces are by Jane Prophet from the UK. They were inspired by her delusional stalker that was diagnosed with psychosis. For 25 years Jane received hundreds of letters, from two words to hundreds pages long. Jane’s three pieces in the gallery are the outcome of her mission to understand the state of mind of her stalker. One of the pieces is a projection of her writing “leave me alone” multiple times until the white page goes completely black. Another piece features extracts from the letters she received and images of google results from searching some of the words he used in the letters. Jane’s work is both unusual and intriguing. Being a victim of stalking is a seriously traumatic and destructive experience. I imagine that trying to understand what the stalker is thinking and expressing it in an artwork could have possibly been a way that Jane dealt with the experience.

Syrian refugees

The most moving piece in the exhibition is Project Syria by Nonny De La Pena. You put on special goggles and headphones that allow you to enter the virtual reality created by Nonny. You find yourself on the streets of Syria. Suddenly a terrorist attack occurs. You see people and children screaming, lying on the ground injured, running away. Smoke and dust obscures your vision. You are suffocating. Next you find yourself at a refugee camp where people live in tents. There is not enough food for everyone. The atmosphere is very intense.

The virtual reality was reconstructed from images and videos registered by journalists. It puts you right in the middle of the nightmare of the Syrian refugees. You can see the horror and the conditions they need to survive in. The experience is nothing like watching a news report or YouTube video. The intensity was such that I started to cry after it. I think we become very used to hearing that people die in terrorist attacks around the world and over time we become numb to it. But when you can really picture yourself in the situation, when you start to feel like you are really there, you can begin to empathise with those who actually lived it.

This is an informative and interesting exhibition comprised of many brilliant pieces that relate to the theme of trauma in many different ways. Interactive and carrying important messages, TRAUMA is set to be one of the best exhibitions in the gallery since its opening. Admission is free and the Gallery is open from 12-8pm on Tuesday to Friday and 12-6pm on Saturday and Sunday.