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Critical Practices Research GroupNews and Events


Published: 20 October 2017
Andrew Carnie: Hybrid Bodies


What does it mean to carry the heart of another person? Why do many heart transplants that appear clinically successful develop unexpected complications or fail? Since 2007, artists Ingrid Bachmann, Andrew Carnie and Alexa Wright have been part of an international interdisciplinary team led by Canadian cardiologist Dr Heather Ross and British philosopher Professor Margrit Shildrick. Uniquely for a collaborative project between artists and other specialists, the artists have worked in parallel with the scientists to explore questions around the emotional, psychological and physiological experience of heart transplantation. The key research material is a collection of twenty-five video interviews which reveal surprising levels of distress amongst post–transplant patients. These findings strongly contradict the belief that receiving a new heart is a simple solution to extending life. The Hybrid Bodies project focuses on the lived experiences of heart transplant recipients, translating their stories into medical and academic literature as well as artworks. The works philosophically explore the cultural and personal implications of incorporating the heart of another person and living in a ‘hybrid body’.

Heart of the Matter (2014) by Alexa Wright is an eight-channel interactive sound installation where individual accounts of the experience of heart transplant are juxtaposed with personal narratives of lost loves and intimate relationships. The sound is activated as visitors approach, and as more people enter the space, individual stories overlay to form a web of interconnected testimonies about the effects of a physical or emotional change of heart – it's often difficult to distinguish between the two. Cadenza (2014) is a three-channel video animation in which a still photograph of an explanted heart has been reworked and reanimated. Beating in an endless loop, the work speaks of both the fragility and the endurance of the human body.

While Wright’s work explores the impact transplant can have on a recipient’s sense of self as a bounded and unique individual, Andrew Carnie is interested in how interconnections between different living systems can alter and extend a sense of self. A Change of Heart (2012) is a video projection in which a constantly morphing, naked figure is presented many times across the screen. Each change is based on drawings made while the artist listened to taped interviews with patients post transplant, and the analysis of social scientists as they mapped the conversations. The work captures a sense of everything in flux, in a continual state of becoming. A Tender Heart (2014) is a series of small hearts embedded in larger hearts made of soap, which may be washed away over time. The piece references the continual need for vigilant cleaning in the months following transplant.

Ingrid Bachmann’s A-part of Me (2014) is a tactile sculptural form and listening device that indicates the challenges and benefits of empathetic listening. Bone transducers translate sound into vibration patterns which conduct sound to the inner ear through different bones of the skull, using the skull as a resonating chamber. The narratives of the transplant recipients are heard intimately, both in the participant’s body and through their body. The work is intensely physical, yet immaterial – only the person holding the transducer to his/her bones can hear the sound. The Gift (2013) is a video work which plays out the spectrum of feelings involved in heart transplant – gratitude, tenderness, profound alienation – through dance performance. On watching the interview footage, Bachmann was struck by how the gestures of patients were often at odds with their words. “Transplant survivors live with paradoxes: ill heart/new heart, healthy/unhealthy, donor/receiver," she says. Through the use of movement, sound and light, Bachmann gives a bodily experience to something that is subtle; something that is altered and different.


London Gallery West
Westminster School of Media, Art & Design University of Westminster
Watford Road, Harrow, HA1 3TP
T: + 44 (0) 20 7911 5970

20 October – 16 November 2017, 9am – 5pm daily

Thursday 19 October 2017, 5 – 8pm

Thursday 2 November 2017, 1 – 2pm
Independent curator Hannah Redler Hawes will discuss this long term interdisciplinary art/science project with some of the artists.

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