news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Monday, 25 April 2016

Q & A with Suvendrini Lena

Suvendrini Lena is a neurologist who is particularly interested in conditions that explicitly alter the fabric of consciousness – epilepsy, dementia, psychosis and migraine. 

She works as the Staff Neurologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and at the Centre for Headache at Women’s College Hospital. She is a Lecturer in Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Toronto where she teaches medical students, residents and fellows. She also teaches a course called Staging Medicine which is a collaboration between The Theatre Centre and U of T Postgraduate Medical Education.

In addition to her impressive medical pursuits, Suvendrini is also a playwright. Her first play, The Enchanted Loom, inspired by an experience in a neurosurgical OR, will be produced by Cahoots and Factory Theatre in 2016. She is a playwright-in-residence at Cahoots where she is working on a second play entitled Rubble. She is currently scientist in residence at The Theatre Centre where she is developing an interdisciplinary work exploring voice in schizophrenia.

Suvendrini tries to explore a different crevice of her dusty old brain, or someone else’s, everyday.

For inFORMING CONTENT 2016, Suvendrini will speak on the way that our brains process colours, windows, our time webs, and life lines now, in our digitized world.

Q: What would you like us to know about your current work? 

A: I’ve been studying/learning/practising neurology/neuroscience for at least 15 years now. I’m struck by the accelerating pace of change in my field driven in part by the convergence of computation science and neuroscience in efforts to map, and really to transform the nature and boundaries of consciousness. I used to go to science fiction movies (which I love) and think I was watching a vision of the future. Now, I often feel like I’m watching the past. I don’t know who can imagine the future anymore.

Q: Can you tell us about a piece of art that you saw/read/heard that changed your perspective?

A: Einstein on the Beach (Opera, Phillip Glass) –  in which numbers are inherently beautiful and both totally abstract and absolutely real. I felt that I understood something about infinity afterwards. It is four hours long and celebrates repetition and so I saw it twice.

Written on the Skin (Opera, Martin Cripp & George Benjamin) and My Name is Black (Novel, Orhan Pamuk). Both stories about love and murder and medieval manuscript painting. I’m fascinated by the representation of the infinite within the miniscule. The scientific parallel would be the way the cellular and molecular world seems to expand ever inwards as one descends into it through a microscope.

Q: What’s your most creative solution when you’re feeling blocked or stuck in your work? 

A: I walk among tall trees or near water. My favourite strategy is to do it at night. It’s a good way to confront the shadows. 

Q: What motivates you when you’re feeling uninspired? 

A: We live. We breathe. Inspiring, expiring.

I work with people who are often very ill, sometimes dying. In the course of my training I have seen a lot of degeneration, suffering and death, in the young and the old. The knowledge that life is very short and little is truly within our control is ever with me. And so, as long as I am alive, feeling, sensing, breathing, moving, I am not uninspired.

Everyone is welcome to attend Suvendrini's lecture at inFORMING CONTENT 2016. You can register here

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