Does identity begin with the body? How do we construct identity? Does genetics have a role to play in understanding who we are? Does identity contribute to understanding how we use medicine?
In IDENTITY week, we look at relationships between mind, body and society in the context of art, medicine and genetics.
Answering Anatomy, 2018
Marissa Keating for National Galleries of Scotland
In this short documentary, contemporary artist Christine Borland discusses her practice and the significance of understanding where her working materials come from, how the history of an object can influence its identity and the importance of ethical working practices. Poetic and empathic insights are key to the effectiveness of Borland's practice and its relevance to the medical humanities, visual art research and medical students’ training. Her work takes place in a context of intensive interest in reciprocity and conversation as well as expert exchange between the fields of Medicine and Contemporary Arts.
In SimWoman, we are given the time and space to consider gender and identity in the context of the medicalised body. Borland’s slow scanning gaze across the wax cast of the female human form, every pore of the skin visible, is juxtaposed with the awkward noise and movement of the technological breathing apparatus of a hospital training manikin. The work completes a trilogy following the use of similar manikins in the works SimMan and SimBaby; casting Borland’s own body to apply to the torso of the male manikin was necessary as no existing female training model existed at the time.
The Unsolved Case, 2012
This short film employs medical technology as a means to reference the mysteries of medical science, where identity can help lead to diagnosis. MRI scans form the basis to explore, through contemporary arts practice, the visualisation of disease and to examine how and what we ‘see’ when looking at these medical images. The film takes its name, The Unsolved Case(Der ungelöste Fall), from a panel of medical experts who use diagnostic tools and patient case histories to attempt to find a diagnosis for as yet ‘unsolved’ medical cases.
Eidolon - Mani (Dance), 2016
Mani (Dance) is an excerpt from Eidolon, an interdisciplinary performance project by artist Beverley Hood that explores the relationship between the body and technology, and the effect technology has on our perception of what it means to be human and alive. The project was developed at the Scottish Centre for Simulation and Clinical Human Factors (SCSCHF) at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Larbert, and is supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Creative Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.
HeLa (edited excerpts), 2014
Including excerpts from the Post-Performance Discussion with Adura Onashile, Prof. Christine Borland and Prof. Volker Straub
Excerpts from Adura Onashile's mesmerising one-hour performance HeLa, at BALTIC CCA in 2014. Based on Rebecca Skloot's novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, HeLa recounts the enduring life of young black mother, Henrietta Lacks who died in 1951 of cervical cancer. Lacks’ cells, originally taken without her consent, are still grown and used for research in labs all over the world today. Onashile’s performance asks us to question whether we can separate our genetic identity from our emotional and spiritual heritage. The performance was followed by an on-stage discussion around the ethics of genetics, consent and identity between Adura Onashile, Professor Volker Straub of the Institute of Genetic Medicine and Professor Christine Borland of The Cultural Negotiation of Science, Northumbria University.
BioFlaneur tackles the topic of personal bio-privacy in the era of big data, social networking and hackers. Offering a futuristic equivalent of the 19th century dandy, this short film speculates on how the science behind the Human Microbiome Project – a project that aims to reveal the myriad microbial communities that live on and inside our bodies - might ultimately impact our personal online privacy.
DNA Spoofing, 2013
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s project DNA Spoofing provides a DIY response to attacks on our bio-privacy. As humans, we are constantly shedding genetic material in public space. It is becoming increasingly common to use those traces for surveillance and reconstruction. Just as ‘IP spoofing’ makes anonymous internet browsing possible, DNA spoofing extends that potential by scrambling genetic material, enabling anonymous physical traces just as we might create digital ones.
Blue-Eyed Me, 2015
Blue-Eyed Me provokes questions around the commodification of identity in the age of social media. Like a social media profile or an online shopping list tailored to our hobbies, Marfin’s vision presents genetically modified pets, engineered to look like their owners, asking us to question where identity resides in a post-personal economy.
Interrupt Cycle: Exhausting the Scenario, 2016
Filmed in a shifting labyrinth of translucent corridors, a surreal interpretation of the corridors found in domestic environments and hospitals, Interrupt Cyclefollows a man's repeating journey through this constructed space as he attempts to position himself within his environment. The exhaustive narrative attempts to contextualise the space, exploring the ways Alzheimer’s can impact spatial memory and cognitive mapping. Interrupt Cycle is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Madame I, 2007
In this work originally conceived for mobile phone, a disembodied woman’s voice contemplates a sense of detachment. Madame I was the subject of a neurological study in the early 20th century: a patient who had lost her 'body awareness', or proprioception. Her predicament, and her lucid, poignant description of it, resonates with the disembodied nature of our contemporary networked lives, of everyday mobile and digital technologies. Madame I is an Artist's Film & Video production supported by The National Lottery through Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen.
All of a Sudden Something Popped, 2017
The animation All of a Sudden Something Popped is the outcome of a residency undertaken by artist, Daksha Patel as part of Stroke: Stories of Self, an arts/science project led by the University of Manchester and the Stroke Association. It responds to the voices of a group of people who describe sudden and profound changes in their lives that alter their perceptions and sense of identity. This intimate portrait of a group of individuals takes us on a journey through the social, psychological and physiological impact of a life-changing event.
Air (verb), 2015
How different is one species from the next? How can we distinguish body from mind?
In Lilian Mehrel's short film, air is expressed as a verb - to breathe / to air out. Mehrel drew her inspiration from molecular biology, water creatures, the connection between living things, and the importance of air - what goes in, and what must come out. The film raises questions around where the body ends and mind begins. Winner of the 48-hour film contest at Imagine Science Films and sponsored by Google, Columbia, Science and Nature.
Me and my Left Hand, 2017
Nicholas McCarthy is a highly accomplished concert pianist who was born without a right hand. Growing up, Nicholas was encouraged by his family to follow his dream of becoming a professional musician. In 2012 he became the first one-handed pianist to graduate from London’s Royal College of Music. An ambassador for OMHI, the One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust, Nicholas is a strong supporter of finding innovative methods of modifying musical instruments so that – by focusing on the positives – anyone can find their voice through music.
The Body is Obsolete, 2013
In this short interview with internet art channel Vernissage TV, performance artist Stelarc discusses his Third Ear project. Stelarc has used medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, virtual reality systems, the internet and biotechnology to engineer intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body to explore what he describes as Alternate Anatomical Architectures. Working with surgeons and scientists in stem cell research, Stelarc has developed the form of a human ear under the skin of his forearm. His longer-term aim is to internet enable this ear so that remote users can use Stelarc's physical body to listen to his surroundings from wherever they are in the world. Stelarc’s often provoking and challenging work asks us to question our reliance on the physical body. The prosthesis is seen not as a sign of lack, but as a symptom of excess. Rather than replacing a missing or malfunctioning part of the body, these interfaces and devices augment or amplify the body's form and functions.
Prototype (Dance Sequence),2014
Latvian born UK singer-songwriter, Viktoria Modesta undertook a voluntary below-the-knee amputation of her left leg following years of hospitalisation throughout her childhood. This excerpt from her 2014 music video, Prototype, contains a stunning dance sequence that evocatively conveys the power of identity.