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How a theatre company, physicist and philosopher are exploring beauty

Peformance of 12 Last Songs at Quarantine

How do we evaluate, understand and articulate the value of beauty?

This question is currently being investigated by theatre company Quarantine, alongside physicist Rox Middleton from the University of Bristol and philosopher and research assistant Lucy Tomlinson.

Their research partnership is supported by the Centre of Cultural Value’s Collaborate fund. The fund matches cultural organisations with academics to investigate an under-explored question of cultural value.

Sarah Hunter, an artist and producer at Quarantine, recently visited Rox to understand how she studies the value of beauty within science. Sarah reflects on the experience of watching Rox look at the minutiae of natural structures in her new blog:

Under the microscope I watch as thin slices of berry, and single grains of salt, become awesome landscapes … I find myself transfixed by the process of looking again and again and again.

Sarah says that while their disciplines are different, their processes and interests share many similarities. All involved in the project have a united fascination with creating frames for looking at beauty in everyday life. In doing this, they want to make sure that beauty isn’t overlooked in favour of more easily measured outcomes.

The partnership is now thinking about ways they can open a new conversation about beauty. As part of this process, they are developing a lab book they can use with audiences, participants, artists and scientists. The lab books draw on Rox’s methodologies, Quarantine’s processes of asking questions and Lucy’s philosophical research.

Sarah explains that by using the lab book in both performance and scientific contexts they hope to be able to draw comparisons. This approach will help them learn more about where beauty is (or isn’t) found, what it feels like, how it looks, and perhaps most importantly, if or why it matters.

Read Sarah’s blog post, The Beauty Project: Experiments in Looking Again at Quarantine.  

If you saw or were involved in 12 Last Songs in Leeds, Brighton, Manchester and would like to join the conversation on beauty, please contact to find out more.

We have re-opened our Collaborate fund to expressions of interest from the UK cultural sector.

 The deadline for cultural sector applicants is 25 November 2022. We will open the fund to academics in January 2023. Please visit this webpage for more details on how to apply to the fund. 

Image credit: Quarantine, 12 Last Songs at Transform Festival, October 2021. Photo: David Lindsay

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