Research project

Hybrid Bodies Network

  • Research funder:
    Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
  • Status:
    Not active

Project overview


Since the first successful operation in 1967, heart transplantation has become an almost routine form of surgery. Yet whilst significant bio-scientific research has been conducted into the procedure and its medical outcomes, there has been very little research into the emotional and psychological impact of transplantation on the families of deceased donors. On a broader level, organ transplantation signifies a shift in the way the body is viewed, raising questions around bodily boundaries, identity, and new non-biological kinship relationships.The Principal and Co-Investigators are part of a long term international, interdisciplinary research project based in Toronto, Canada looking at the psycho-social effects of heart transplantation. The study, which is currently focused on better understanding the experience of heart donor families, is unique in that it brings together medics, visual artists, a philosopher and social scientists to study transplantation from multiple, interwoven perspectives with the aim of understanding the procedure within a broad social and psychological context. The proposed Hybrid Bodies UK network will bring collaborators involved in this existing group into dialogue with relevant UK-based artists, scientists, theorists and medical professionals with the aim of involving some of these new partners in establishing an artist-led UK base for our project.In October 2017 we will hold a work in progress exhibition in London of artworks made by the three artists in the GOLA team. Each of these artists has extensive experience of making work that traverses the boundaries between art and science. They currently have access to the research findings of the scientific partners in Canada and to records of the personal experiences of donor family members there. Exploring issues of identity, embodiment, affect and kinship, they will continue to work closely with Dr. Ross and Dr. Shildrick to create work informed and inspired by this phenomenological research material. The exhibition and an accompanying half-day symposium will be for an invited audience of heart donor families, artists, medical scientists, and others with an interest in organ donation. The artists and (where possible) other members of the existing team will be present for the duration of the exhibition, where the artworks will act as a focal point for dialogue. While the artworks share a common starting point, each of the three artists will produce a separate work. They will liaise with Curator, Hannah Redler to ensure that relationships between the exhibited works are strong and the exhibition is cohesive, allowing space for the artworks to mutate and change in response to feedback.In March 2018 we will hold a two-day workshop at University of Southampton that brings together existing members of the group with new members recruited at the initial exhibition for a more in-depth practical exchange of experience, ideas and practices facilitated through activities such as small group work, structured interdisciplinary Q&A sessions, panel discussions and presentations from different disciplinary standpoints.This program of events will enable us to share both our existing innovative interdisciplinary working methods and our insight into some of the disruptive and emotionally disturbing aspects of heart transplantation with interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners in the UK. Channeled through visual and media arts, our ongoing research will explore the complexities of organ transplantation in a novel way. Using artworks in development as a focal point, we aim to entangle new research from the arts, biosciences and humanities without privileging any one discourse. Broadening the reach of our existing collaboration to facilitate exchange between researchers working in two different cultural contexts (Canada/UK) will lead to richer alternative avenues for new understandings, knowledge translation and outreach in both countries.

Research outputs

2018, Medical Humanities, 44(1), 46-54
Type: article