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EXHIBITION: Junctures of a Haphazard Kind

emily jan


Stitched watercolours: Andrew Carnie working with Alice Kettle and Rachael Causer

At Medical Museion, Bredgade 62, 1260 København

As part of Workshop 3: Re-Imagining Transplantation, The Politics and Poetics of Embodiment and Identity, Copenhagen, June 18-19, 2018.
Organised by Nordic Network Gender, Body and Health

TALK: Junctures of a Haphazard Kind
Reception room Medical Museio, 4:30 -6:00 19th June 2018  

The 3rd workshop turns to the nexus of organ and tissue transplantation, where the prosthesis is usually – though not always – organic rather than mechanical. Over the last 50 years the capacity for, and biomedical success of, solid organ transplantation has risen dramatically with greatly enhanced survival rates, while those receiving tissues – such as skin grafts – expect greatly enhanced rates of recovery. The motivating question of the workshop, then, is activated by a strange mismatch in public attitudes to transplantation. On the one hand the seemingly beneficent nature of organ donation and transplantation is broadly supported as a welcome medical advance, and yet on the other, the same unexceptional and clinically relatively low risk procedures nevertheless provoke widespread cultural and individual psychic anxiety. On the surface the process is represented as an unproblematised and fully therapeutic social good, a triumph of bioscientific technology, so what is it that underlies a far more complex socio-cultural and personal response? Studies show that it is not the biomedical risk transplantation that causes concern, but the manner in which the procedures deeply disrupt the cultural imaginary of what it is to be embodied as an individual and poses irresolvable difficulties to the question of personal identity (Waldby 2002; Poole, Shildrick et al 2009).

Where the mechanical prostheses commonly deployed in the context of disability create a disturbance to the experience of embodiment, organic transplants produce an even more acute break in the sense of an enduring self. Emerging empirical research reveals that recipients commonly experience highly troubling disruptions to their phenomenological well-being which indicates that high rates of clinically measured recovery are not matched by a sense of personal flourishing (Ross et al 2010, Shaw 2010). In the context of western adherence to the founding binary of self and other, the event of transplantation breaks down the boundaries of normative embodiment and of personal identity, ie when the donor organ crosses the threshold of the recipient body, ontological questions of self and other frequently arise. This is not simpy an abstract concern in that the transplant organ brings to its new site an alien DNA that will persist for life (Shildrick et al 2009) and that may circuate throughout the peripheral blood supply. The fundamental question of ’who am I?’ becomes unanswerable. Such an approach ranges across interlinked questions of foreignness and intrusion; the relation between host and guest, the meaning of hospitality; the question of corporeal generosity; and always the matter of sex and gender. The embodied self is never neutral.

The problem is that few of these existential questions are acknowledged without biomedical science or by media promotions of the good of transplantation. Unless they suffer complete breakdown, recipients are left to fend for themselves with few resources to settle their self-doubt. It creates an unaddressed bioethical problem that indicates how conventional western ethics is ill-suited to analyse problems thrown up by rapidly expanding new technologies. In the workshop, we attend to the actual uncertainty of the human body, with the aim of giving voice to a new understanding of the transcorporeal embodiment that transplantation entails. What is at stake is the assumed purity – or at least clarity – of human embodiment and the intimation that our bodies may be better acknowledged as assemblages of disparate parts. In short, the workshop will explore whether the project of rethinking prosthetic embodiment in the context of transplantation offers a transformatory response to otherness and difference that can go beyond the dominant conventions of modernism to facilitate acceptance of embodiment as multiple and interdependent. Moreover, in reconfiguring the ontological and epistemological bases, it becomes apparent that what is required is a differently composed and intrinsically flexible bioethics.

Speakers included Margrit Shildrick, Tim Jeeves, Rhonda Shaw, Donna MCCormack and Adam Bencard

Alexa Wright on the panel, “Organ transplantation and art: The ethics and politics of representation” 

emily jan



Art, Materiality and Representation


PANEL – Organ Transplantation and art: the ethics and politics of representation

Panel Participants (alphabetical order) 

Kimberley Foster (Art) The kidney, once my father’s, still lives in the same house as him, has the same function, but is now a few meters away, tucked on the underside of my mother’s abdomen. Can the transplant be re-interpreted as a way of making new meaning and a metaphor of inter-subjective transformation? My PhD practice research involves making objects which are re-positioned, shared, held and performed. I explore the transformative potential of these pedagogical objects, asking what embodied and metaphoric meanings arise through their haptic exchange as they extend from the body prosthetically, becoming both object and subject. 

Helen Pynor (Art) In The Body is a Big Place, a dialogue is staged between 'performing' organs and the performing bodies of members of an organ transplant community who were performers in the work's underwater video sequences. During live performances in the gallery space, a heart perfusion device was used to re-animate a pair of fresh pig hearts obtained from an abattoir. This paper explores material, visceral and metaphoric strategies used in the project to present 'un-representable' aspects of transplantation.  

Lesley Sharp (Anthropology) This paper—based on two decades of anthropological field research in the realm of human organ transfer in the U.S.—examines the material culture of professional versus personal donor memorials through the themes of controversy, censorship, and subversion. 

Abin Thomas (Anthropology) will explore how organ transfer is ‘re-presented’ in movies and documentaries in India and analyse the public response to media portrayal of transplantation. 

Thi Que Chi Trinh (Social Design) and Michel Gölz (Social Design) Ex-Life is a European-Vietnamese social design project intended to encourage Vietnamese youth to exchange views on organ transplantation. The project involved facilitating conversation through participants touching organ-shaped objects, asking how they might imagine sharing an organ with another. 

Alexa Wright (Art), The Heart Project is an interdisciplinary research project investigating the phenomenological effects of heart transplant on recipients and donor families in Canada. This presentation will explore themes of self and other, connectivity and assemblage, describe the working processes involved and show some the resulting artworks, which include video, sound, interactive installation, drawing and photography. 

John Wynne (Art) - Illustrated by sounds and images from two artist research projects based in major transplant centres in the UK, this talk will look at how patients medicalise their personal narratives through their long-term relationships with hospital staff and look at potential ways of using linguistic and audio analysis to explore how and when emotions surface in their words and voices. 

Registration opens on 22 February 2018

Timetable viewable here.

Ingrid Bachmann in The Journal of Surgical Humanities

emily jan

Published by the Department of Surgery at the University of Saskatchewan, the Fall/Winter edition of the Journal of Surgical Humanities features a piece chronicling the experience of working along the borders of Arts and Medicine; "Hybrid Bodies: Intersections with Medicine, Science and Art". Bachmann tracks her early research into medical textiles used in heart valves to her initial collaboration with the PITH team and the physicians at the University of Toronto. 

Read more here.

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Andrew Carnie at Taboo Transgression Transcendence

emily jan

Hybrid Bodies artist recently gave a Key Note Address as guest speaker at the Taboo Transgression and Transcendence in Art and Science Conference, at the Ionian University, Corfu Greece, 26-28 May 2017. 

this interdisciplinary conference focuses on: "a) on questions about the nature of the forbidden and about the aesthetics of liminality - as expressed in art that uses or is inspired by technology and science, b) in the opening of spaces for creative transformation in the merging of science and art. Besides the call for papers and artwork presentation, this year's conference also includes a call for posters, organized in conjunction with the A-Club of the Planetary Collegium. Art’s playfully transgressive nature offers creative bypasses to the grammar of science and expands the dialogue with its openness to a multiplicity towards the new. Nevertheless, art – albeit its originary affinity with the taboo – is never completely liberated from moral considerations. Deeply involved into this lively discourse on the nature of the taboo, art becomes the very domain of contemporary experimentation with transgression, in order to provoke and sparkle discourse, catalyzing possible forms of transcendence."

More information about the conference here:

Body Esc. Exhibition

emily jan

Including project artist Andrew Carnie the recent exhibition at the Municipal Gallery of Corfu
gathered artworks, from diverse media, created by both Greek and international artists during different time periods, the exhibition Body Esc intends to induce a brief reflection on the meaning of the body in the digital and biotechnological age.

Body Esc is a reaction to Foucault's "medical gaze". A feedback on the post-human clinical perception of patients as cases, ripped of identity, of bodies as sets of organs, turned into a target for manipulation as any other natural resource. Acknowledging that, this failure to recognize the person beyond the body, confines and neutralizes the individual potential in the healing process, Body Esc is a subtle invitation to press the escape key. 

Organized within the framework of the 2nd International Interdisciplinary Conference "Taboo-Transgression-Transcendence in Art and Science", by the Ionian University, the exhibition is integrated in the program of the 11th Audiovisual Arts Festival. Body Esc is co-curated by Dalila Honorato, Assistant Professor in Aesthetics - Semiotics, and Marina Papasotiriou, curator at the National Gallery of Art - Corfu Annex, and is designed by Tania Tsiridou, adjunct instructor in Interactive & Audiovisual Arts. The exhibition will take place in the Municipal Gallery of Corfu (Ionian Islands - Greece), from May 25th until June 4th, 2017. 

Download the exhibition description: here


emily jan

BBC Radio 4's programme 'Seriously..." the home of quirky, curious and seriously interesting documentaries has recently featured the contributions of artist Alexa Wright on their episode entitled "PRINT ME A NEW BODY". 

From their episode blurb:  

Most parts of our bodies - lungs, hearts, knees, faces - can all be replaced by transplant. The world's first full head transplant is mooted for 2018. Or is it a body transplant?

Jolyon Jenkins decides to explore how it's now possible to replace most of his body, by bioprinting, transplant or use of synthetic parts. He works methodically through his own body and interviews scientists at the cutting-edge in each area; and explores our emotional reactions to the idea of replacing different parts of our bodies.

In 2011, the world's first synthetic organ, a windpipe, was grown in a lab and transplanted. Now scientists at UCL's Department of Nanotechnology have come up with another 'world first' - the growth of a nose. There's a lab there known as the "human body parts store", using the patient's own stem cells and synthetic materials to create all many different body parts.

And now comes bioprinting - the process of using 3D printers to form human tissue. It's already been used to print everything from replacement skulls to vaginas, as well as prosthetic arms and legs.

Transplanting, and printing: an entire replacement body may only be a decade away.

There is no doubt that people feel a mixture of horror and hope at the idea that nearly all parts of us can be replaced. But what will that mean for us?

Listen to the full episode or subscribe to their podcast here: Seriously... on BBC4


emily jan

Hybrid Bodies artist Alexa Wright presents at the Silent Signal Symposium

In partnership with QUAD and the University of Derby, Animate Projects presents a symposium at the University of Derby to accompany the exhibition of Silent Signal at QUAD in February 2016.

Taking Silent Signal as a departure point for a broader look at collaboration at the intersection of art, science and technology, the day will feature presentations from the Silent Signal collaborators, and panel discussions with those from the fields of both art and science.

QUAD is a centre for contemporary art, film and creative use of new technologies that is based in Derby city-centre.

Established in 2006 QUAD curates up to 20 exhibitions per year in Derby, UK and internationally and has three independent cinemas, with extensive participation, education, event, publication, commissioning, curatorial and residency programmes. QUAD is the Artistic Director of FORMAT International Photography Festival biennale. Previously commissioned artists include Jane and Louise Wilson, Lindsay Seers, Ronnie Close and Marinella Senatore.

Hybrid Bodies brings together the work of four internationally exhibiting artists from Canada and the UK. Their different works are united by the compelling subject matter of heart transplant. Since 2007 the four artists (Alexa Wright GB; Ingrid Bachmann CA; Andrew Carnie GB and Catherine Richards CA) have been working as part a larger interdisciplinary team, based at Toronto General Hospital and led by the Canadian Cardiologist, Dr Heather Ross and British philosopher, Dr Margrit Shildrick. The team, which also includes Dr. Susan Abbey, transplant psychiatrist and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, (University Health Network, Toronto), Dr. Patricia McKeever, health researcher (Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto), and Dr. Jennifer Poole, sociologist (Ryerson University) have explored the embodied experience of transplantation in recipients from a number of different perspectives. Alexa Wright gave a presentation on Hybrid Bodies including an overview of the project, focusing on the scientists’ change of attitude as the project progressed.

Hybrid Bodies II Kicks off in Toronto

emily jan

Team members of Hybrid Bodies II in the meeting room.

Team members of Hybrid Bodies II in the meeting room.

This past July, the members of the Hybrid Bodies team gathered in Toronto to kick off Hybrid Bodies II. While Hybrid Bodies I dealt with the psychological and ontological effects of heart transplantation from the perspective of the organ recipients, Hybrid Bodies II approaches the issue of transplantation from the perspective of the donor families. 

At our first meeting, we viewed the first cohort of video interviews with donor families gathered by the PITH team as part of their ongoing qualitative research into the effects of transplantation. We also charted the course of phase two of the project, which will span the next five years. Upcoming exhibitions, publications, conferences, and other news and noteworthy events will be posted here. 

Andrew Carnie speaks at Vesalius Continuum, Greece, Sept 4-8 2014

emily jan

Vesalius Continuum: Conference Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Andreas Vesalius: Zakynthos, Greece; September 4-8, 2014

"Vesalius Continuum," a conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of "father of modern anatomy" Andreas Vesalius! Organized by Pascale Pollier and Dr. Ann Van de Velde, the "Vesalius Continuum" will take place on the Greek island of Zakynthos (where Vesalius dies in 1564) from September 4-8, and will host a wonderful mix of scientists and artists, medical historians, art historians, medical artists and contemporary artists.

“ A talk on new art work based on notions of intercorporeality gleaned from a study on the psychic well being of heart transplant patients”.

A Change of Heart

In a strange way the anatomical studies of Galen left us part baboon, part dog, part oxen, part man, a hybrid body; as we tend to have an understanding of ‘our selves’ from the information around us, particularly currently from science. Galen dissecting animals rather than the human cadaver made analogies and made us amalgams for a time; we acquired a two-part jaw, and a connecting passage between the ventricles of the heart.

Galen had proposed ‘holes’ between the ventricles as his theory that arteries from the left ventricle carried pure blood to the brain and lungs while the right ventricle supplied lower organs like the stomach and kidneys necessitated connections between the ventricles; so he ‘found them’. Galen’s authority was so ubiquitous that for 1400 years subsequent anatomists said that they too had found these links. Vesalius corrected these errors to many degrees when he worked in Padua, leading rigorous human dissections.

Through Vesalius’s disciplined anatomy we understand more of the body as a singular entity truer to its real form, and he created a new climate in which anatomists trusted only their own observations and explored the body a new, creating a better picture. In the modern hospital heart transplant patients when asked of their state of well being when they return for examination in the clinic show signs of being extremely well, appreciative of the effort and sacrifice that has made there continued life possible. However anomalies to this belief showed up from time to time, reports from home suggested a different truth, but one that was suppressed; the Cartesian type view that switching the heart was simply like swapping the pump in a car prevailed. On the hunch that there was more to the anomalies and trying to look a new at the issues researchers at the Toronto General Hospital have interviewed transplant patients in their own homes, post transplant, regarding their psychic wellbeing. The results are interesting and diverge from the customary orthodoxy.

The findings suggest that all is not so well. Transplant patients subsequent to the operation often develop unexpected complications or fail to keep a grip of their sense of identity. The recipient’s sense of self as a bounded and unique individual is disrupted through the transplant process; some suffer a sense of ‘in-betweeness’, a sense of ‘hybridity’. The long-term purpose of the study is to give better advice to patients so they can navigate psychologically the issues involved in such a traumatic procedure. Maybe also for all of us extrapolating from the study, questions of the status of the normative-self, the singular ‘I’ might be made; maybe a sense of self as more fluid and intercorporeal is more useful.

The talk will endeavour to examine the study and discuss how artists working alongside the PITH [Process of Incorporating the Heart] research team, used the data on the psycho-social wellbeing of the patients to develop new work for the exhibition Hybrid Bodies exhibited at the Digital Media Centre PHI, Montreal in early 2014.