The Wernicke’s Area | Collaboration with ANU Productions

PRiSM Researchers to explore music, brain seizure, and neurophysiology through live cross-disciplinary performance in Dublin in Autumn 2022

27 May 2022

Project meeting at the PRiSM Lab in RNCM, February 2022
(left: Owen Boss, right: Emily Howard)

Professor Emily Howard (Director RNCM PRiSM) will compose music for a new artwork to be premiered in Dublin in October 2022.

The project is led by ANU Productions, the award-winning Irish interdisciplinary arts organisation.

Working with renowned experimental mezzo soprano Rosie Middleton and violist Stephen Upshaw, the new work, The Wernicke’s Area, will blend elements of live music, installation art, performance and sound design.

The immersive sound design by Dr Bofan Ma (RNCM PRiSM Post-Doctoral Research Associate), with assistance from Dr Christopher Melen (RNCM PRiSM Research Software Engineer), will use PRiSM’s cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence facilities as a research tool, and the influence of technologies can be felt across the entire project.

Graphic design ©Owen Boss

The work derives from and reflects on the personal story of Deborah Boss – wife of ANU’s co-founder / co-Artist Director Owen Boss.

Deborah underwent emergency surgery in 2014 to remove a previously undiagnosed meningioma brain tumour from what is known as the Wernicke’s Area of the brain. The surgery, albeit successful, also left Deborah with many long-lasting effects, including epileptic seizures, aphasia (a loss of comprehension both heard and spoken), and spells of audio hallucinations.

This work will also extrapolate findings from ongoing conversations and collaborative research between Owen Boss and neurophysiologist Professor Mark Cunningham (Trinity College Dublin), which features the use of electrophysiological data associated with seizure generation in the human brain, captured and kindly provided by Professor Cunningham and his team at Trinity College Dublin.

Studying seizure activity in my research lab we use electrophysiological approaches to capture the electrical discharges that are associated with epilepsy. Electrophysiology is a scientific technique that allow researchers to measure and evaluate the function of brain cells, the connections between brain cells and their surrounding environment.

Professor Mark Cunningham, Trinity College Dublin

As this project developed, it became evident that music would play a vital role within the work. It made perfect sense to reconnect with Emily and to evolve our great working relationship from Manchester International Festival’s The Anvil. ANU were keen to explore music through Emily’s interest in science and within her research centre of PRiSM and to see which avenues of exploration would develop through our collaboration.

Owen Boss, ANU Productions

The creative cohort recently paid a Research & Development visit to ANU’s studio at The Irish Museum of Modern Art, as well as the lab base of Professor Cunningham’s research team. This will lead to further workshops over the summer (London and Manchester) and an intensive final preparation week in Dublin prior to the project launch in early October 2022.

Project Research & Development in Dublin, May 2022 (Emily Howard, Rosie Middleton, Mark Cunningham, Owen Boss, Bofan Ma – via Zoom)


Established in 2009, ANU is led by Visual Artist Owen Boss, Theatre-Maker Louise Lowe, Producers Lynnette Moran and Matthew Smyth. Together they have created 43 seminal works, public art commissions, gallery installations and museum interpretations; creating a new brand and reputation that has gained worldwide recognition. Heralded by the Irish Times as creating the “most searing and provocative art works of the past decade”.