Taking contemporary art practice into the forensic lab: a conversation with Dr Kathryn Smith

Dr Kathryn Smith is an interdisciplinary visual artist and curator who has moved from an initial education in Fine Arts (with a BAFA and MAFA from Wits) to actively explore applied sciences at the University of Dundee where she earned an MSc in Forensic Art, and a PhD from the Liverpool John Moores University. It is a journey that has taken her from advanced contemporary art practice, she was winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2004, to a deep engagement with the practicalities and theoretical and ethical challenges of forensic facial imaging.
In this dialogue, we discuss the trajectory of Kathryn's career from "crime artist and muse" - starting with her MA on Joel-Peter Witkin - to applied forensic facial reconstruction projects such as the recent Sutherland Reburial Initiative.

We also discuss the postgraduate work Kathryn did at the Dundee Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification and the challenges raised by the "Laws of the Face" which she explored in her PhD; as well as her contributions to the Face Lab research group, including the development of the MA Art in Science degree at Liverpool John Moores University.
We talk about her return to South Africa and how she is establishing resources to promote forensic imaging skills through VIZ.Lab, as well as new understandings of this scarce skill in the African context, most recently for the Charting the Uncharted exhibition.

Finally we explore Kathryn's thinking about the relationship between art and science practice; the management of "pracademic" exchanges between operational, institutional, and research environments; and the notion of knowledge generation in arts-science-technology research.
Links:
VIZ.Lab:
http://www0.sun.ac.za/visualarts/projects/
Stellenbosch University profile of Kathryn:
https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7858
The Sutherland Reburial Initiative:
https://theconversation.com/how-art-and-technology-helped-bring-faces-of-the-dead-to-life-127844