Brains in a Dish at Cooper Gallery and Glass Works Digital Space, Barnsley

Part of our Exhibitions guide

Maja Lorkowska, Exhibitions Editor
Charlie Murphy, In Search of Self (detail), 2019, UV reactive coloured borosilicate glass, robotic UV lights, 45cm x 35cm Image: Charlie Murphy

Charlie Murphy: Brains in a Dish at Barnsley’s Cooper Gallery, Until 14 January 2023, free entry - Visit now

Immerse yourself in large-scale kinetic installations of glass and light opening at Barnsley’s Cooper Gallery and Glass Works Digital Space: Brains in a Dish presents creative responses to dementia research.

The exhibition is the result of seven years of research, engagement and collaboration between artist Charlie Murphy, Professor Selina Wray’s dementia research team at University College London, and electronics engineer Robin Bussell.

Professor Wray uses cutting-edge technology of working with stem cells to investigate the causes of dementia on a cellular level. Brains in a Dish is a captivating visual exploration of the ever-evolving techniques in bioengineering which, quite literally, grow brain cells in a dish.

Sculptor and installation artist Charlie Murphy has created a number of extremely delicate, colourful glass sculptures which come to life with the help of digital tools such as image projections, robotic lasers and body recognition software. The sculptures are inspired by images of the cells and the choice of glass as a medium works to emphasise their intricacy and fragility. Professor Wray points out that while they’re very beautiful objects, their fragility helps us to recognise just how delicate these cells actually are in our brain.

Light play across a new cellular glass sculpture created for Barnsley’s major Brains in a Dish exhibition (October 15th 2022-14 Jan 2023)
Charlie Murphy: Brains in a Dish


This creative response to complex dementia research makes it more accessible to audiences of all ages, and allows visitors to learn more about the brain and the processes utilised in the study. Working in the realm of art rather than exclusively science ensures that the team can reach a wider audience from outside of the strictly scientific community, and celebrates the overlap between the two fields.

The exhibition is accompanied by free creative activities for gallery visitors, people living with dementia, local schools and community groups. These include glass blowing, laser programming and cell-decorating workshops, all designed for the participants to gain a deeper understanding of dementia and the ongoing research.

Brains in a Dish promises to be a powerful aesthetic experience that celebrates collaboration and illuminates the depths of scientific study.

Charlie Murphy: Brains in a Dish at Barnsley’s Cooper Gallery

Until 14 January 2023
Free entry