Brains in a Dish exhibition view at Cooper Gallery
Image: Scott Bairstow

Brains in a Dish    15 October 2022 – 14 January 2023       

Barnsley Museums
Cooper Gallery
Church Street, Barnsley, S70 2AH

Barnsley Museums Digital Space @ The Glassworks (till 20th Nov)
Barnsley, S70 1GW

Brains in a Dish brings exciting, immersive art+science installations to Barnsley Museums’ Cooper Gallery and Glassworks Digital Space. Artist Charlie Murphy and engineer Robin Bussell use an array of playful digital tools, lights, projections, robotic lasers, discos and glass sculptures to explore the pioneering dementia research of Prof. Selina Wray. Critical issues exploring the ethics, ownership and responsibilities of bio engineering are also considered through large scale immersive environments and participatory events.

Prof. Selina Wray grew up in Barnsley and now leads dementia research at University College, London. Prof. Wray’s lab are using cutting edge technologies to investigate the underlying causes of dementias. Prof Wray is particularly interested in how a protein called ‘Tau’ builds up in the brain to cause damage through diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Frontotemporal dementia. Other project collaborators include Dr Eric Hill (Aston University) and advanced imaging departments across the UK and abroad.

The Brains in a Dish exhibition at Cooper Gallery presents dramatic, intricate glass sculptures animated by robotic lights and videos, while in the Glassworks Digital Space, an array of playful, interactive tools and projections invite you to animate colourful brain imagery using your hands and bodies.

Charlie and her team are also offering a programme of accessible and engaging creative opportunities for local community and schools’ groups to learn about the brain , contribute to the development of co-created artworks and installations and discover inspiring insights into the arts, science, technologies and dementia research involved.

Brains in a Dish was initially conceived and developed as a novel art-science collaborative experiment during Charlie and Selina’s residency as part of Created Out of Mind, a research project at the Wellcome Collection (London, 2016-18) led by Prof Sebastian Crutch.

This Brains in a Dish project for Barnsley’s Museums is financially supported by Barnsley Museums & Heritage Trust, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

For full details of the exhibition, please visit

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

See below for details about development work leading to the Barnsley Brains in a Dish exhibition

Students from Kingston School of Art testing Charlie’s Brainscan Headdress now developed to illuminate to live EEG data brain feeds
– an award winning part of Murphy + Bussell’s Barnsley’s Brains R+D project (Ars Electronica Brain Hackathon 2020)

Jan 2022 ARUK Inspire Fund awarded to Barnsley’s Brains : Captivating science & art project announced for Cooper Gallery
Thanks to a £15,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK’s flagship public outreach scheme, the Inspire Fund, we are developing a new science-art project and exhibition – planned for the Cooper Gallery in Barnsley. ARUK’s Inspire Fund will support a series of innovative workshops with local people which will support the development of new interactive artworks.

Currently, around one million people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, including 3,000 people in Barnsley alone. It’s a condition caused by several diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s, and sadly one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime unless we bring about life-changing preventions and treatments.

Charlie Murphy will collaborate with Professor Selina Wray, who grew up in Barnsley and now leads a group of dementia researchers at University College London. Prof Wray investigates the underlying causes of dementia, and is particularly interested in how a protein that builds up in the brain causes damage in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.

To develop the artworks for the exhibition, the pair will collaborate with Dr Eric Hill from Aston University and engineer Robin Bussell. They will run a series of participatory workshops with local community groups to develop artworks and interactive activities about dementia and brain health.  

The Barnsley Brains team will also run tried and tested events while the exhibition is open, showcasing their illuminated ‘Brainscan Headdress’ and popular ‘Neuronal Disco’ activities. These will be held for different local groups and schools, with the goal of creating dialogue and capturing changes in perceptions and understanding of dementia and dementia research.

Barnsley’s Brains R+D (Oct 2020- Jan 2022)

Supported by an Arts Council England Lottery Project grant, creative partnerships with UCL’s Professor Selina Wray & ongoing collaborations new technologist Robin Bussell, the Barnsley Brains team have been testing & prototyping ambitious new multimedia artworks to illuminate important dimensions of dementia research & brain function.

Researching innovative learning & engagement activities for schools and dementia care networks, their R+D project explores how arts, science, design and glass industries can be connected to create innovative multimedia installations, educational tools and participatory events.

Their R+D programme includes wide selection of physical and conceptual experiments and dialogues. 

Huge thanks to Arts Council England ( Lottery Project Grant) , The Cooper Gallery and Barnsley Museums teams, the artistagency, Chemglassware Ltd, The Glass Hub team (Wiltshire), The Wray Lab team (UCL)

The Barnsley Brains team are currently preparing applications for funding to support the realisation of large scale artworks and installations which will be presented at The Cooper Gallery and connected venues across Barnsley from  Oct. 2022- Jan 2023. We are also seeking further presentation opportunities with exhibition venues across the UK and Internationally.

Links to highlights from our R&D activities since Sept 2020 :

R+D : Brain Scan Headdress (Ars Electronica Hackathon2020)

R+D : Barnsley Research + Site Visit

R+D : Glass (kiln work)

R+D : interaction workshops

For further info email :

Insta : Brains in a Dish     The Photonic Excitors