Ways of doing things

Anna Macdonald

Made in response to the work of the Human Cell Atlas, Ways of doing things is a dance and moving image project which provokes thought about issues of consent, donation, and the significance of pattern in both art and science. Responding to the complex issue of tissue donation, the project involved a year-long series of movement workshops, public talks, interviews and conversations with both members of the public and HCA researchers. A significant part of this research involved the artist working intensively for six months with people who are experts in giving and receiving; one, a group of transplant recipients and the other, a group of young care-givers.

What emerged from this long-term creative engagement is a series of interconnected artworks that include: an online one to one performance, a moving image artwork, a zine, a screendance documenting the artist’s time working with young carers and an interactive online collection of people’s hand movements. Collectively, these works explore giving and receiving, the wonder of matching, finding patterns and connections both within the way the body does things at a cellular level and ways of doing things in everyday life.


Anna Macdonald is a dance and moving image artist from the UK who uses film to expose the resonance of simple movements such as moving from ‘here to there’, ‘holding’ or ‘getting slower’. She specialises in working with the public and her work is regularly exhibited and published internationally in both festival and gallery settings. In 2018, Anna was awarded an Institute of Liberal Arts fellowship at Keele University to develop new models for innovative participatory performance examining the relationship between movement, time and chronic pain (www.circlingartproject.co.uk). This project led to her current research, funded by Arts Council England DYCP award, exploring the relationship between the body, time and affect within performative digital practices. Anna is based at Central St Martins (UAL) where she leads the MA in Performance (Society).


John Mills, Angela Hughes and Mary (from the transplant recipient group) for their insightful and expert participation in this work.

All the children from Centre 33 young carers group, who got on with it all with such generosity and creativity.

MarketPlace: Creative People and Places and Centre 33, Cambridge, Amanda Cawthorne (Young Carers Project Worker for Fenland and Peterborough) Hilary Cox Condron (socially engaged artist) and Richard Cross (regular volunteer) for facilitating the young carers’ workshops.

Colin Stevens (Creative agent, MarketPlace) for his beautiful camera work on Finding pattern.

Collaborator Dr Amy Voris, who contributed her expertise in witnessing, supporting, performing and devising throughout the

George Maund, Digital producer of Ways of doing things (live show)

Human Cell Atlas researchers; Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, Dr Isaac Goh and Dr Anna Wilbrey-Clark

Artist, curator and composer Dominic Smith for allowing us to use his sound compositions Sunday Morning Dust for Finding patterns + Ways of doing things and for his brilliant, inclusive work on the transplant recipient group zine.

Ways of doing things contains images from an online exhibition Circling again (Macdonald: 2020), which was made drawing on collaborative participatory research, conducted in 2019 with Professor Ceri Morgan from Keele University, exploring movement and chronic pain. This work also includes a selection of CC licence images of trees from Flickr images and details of individual credits can be found at the end of the film.

Mark Wilson and his team from Wellcome Sanger for the design of Collected ways of doing things.

Erica Calogero, Shelly Knotts and Kirk Woolford for sharing their expertise with me during the Maker Jam.

Alice O’Connell and Michael Pinchbeck for their feedback.

Matt Burnham from Cambridge Junction for his skill and patience.

Curator Suzy O’Hara, for her creative support throughout the project.

All the people who consented to record their movements as part of Ways of doing things.

All people who contributed to the public workshops and came to the live show.