Since 2007, artists Ingrid Bachmann, Andrew Carnie and Alexa Wright have been part of an international interdisciplinary team lead 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; exploring questions around the emotional, psychological and physiological experience of heart transplantation. The key research material is a collection of video interviews which reveal surprising levels of distress among post–transplant patients, and 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.
Alexa Wright’s work explores the impact transplant can have on a recipient’s sense of self as a bounded and unique individual. In Heart of the Matter (2014), individual accounts of heart transplant are juxtaposed with personal narratives of lost loves and intimate relationships, forming a web of interconnected testimonies about the effects of a physical or emotional change of heart. In Cadenza (2014), an animated explanted heart beats in an endless loop, speaking of both the fragility and the endurance of the human body.
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 projected work based on drawings made while the artist listened to taped interviews with post-transplant patients, and analysis of social scientists mapping the conversations. His constantly morphing figure captures a sense of everything in flux, in a continual state of becoming.
Like the experience of transplant, Ingrid Bachmann’s A-part of Me (2014) is intensely physical, yet immaterial. Indicating both the challenges and benefits of empathetic listening, her sculptural listening device uses bone transducers to conduct sound to the inner ear, using the skull as a resonating chamber. The narratives of the transplant recipients are heard intimately, both in and through the participant’s body.
These and other works in the exhibition philosophically explore the cultural and personal implications of incorporating the heart of another person and living in a ‘hybrid body’. Using still and moving image, sound and objects, the artists address notions of embodiment, obligation, kinship and community.