Passive stereo projection
My work explores the volatile sense of ourselves as we shift boundaries - where we think we begin and end - a process in which new technologies play a starring role.
When in Dr. Ross's office, the cardiologist on the heart transplant team, I was startled by the sight of small hearts in stone, plastic, glass, fabric. These 'knick-knacks' were everywhere. These are the patients' gifts and offerings to her. She can identify each one, recall each story and cannot part with them as they pile up on all surfaces. Even after patients recover they repeatedly return to the clinic year after year to giver her these small token gifts and without knowing that other patients are doing the same thing.
While a living heart is beyond price, these gifts are materially worthless and at first appear inconsequential. But this betrays their power. These objects take on a life of their own. The notion of objects with social agency is hard to resist. The patients are setting out to bridge the unfathomable: the new heart was never 'dead' but was alive/dead; a stranger died so that the patient could have their heart; if their own immune system defends them, the intruder heart dies and as will the patient. And in the end they are binders.
It is these unusually spellbinding gifts that appear in the artwork. I've looked for ways to point to the power of these objects that is beyond their appearance. They occupy a perplexing space, hanging somewhere between life and death where inexplicably two beings may beat as one. Such an almost impenetrable 'other' space resembles medical imaging when we can see inside something where normally we cannot see. These works can appear to move as stereographs. In stereo, these objects live a kind of half-life, apparently material yet active in unexpected ways and operating out of reach.
This work arises out of a project with Dr. Ross's heart transplant team's research: "Process of Incorporating a Transplanted Heart" into the emotional and psychological effects of heart transplantation. The University of Toronto Transplant unit discovered high levels of distress and identity issues in successfully transplanted patients. I accepted their invitation to be part of the project since the influence of technology on our sense of our borders and notion of 'ourselves' has been central to my work. Here, technology makes it possible to avert death by taking another's heart and the ambiguity of 'ourselves' where we begin or end is brought directly into the flesh.
These artworks are part of a developing body of work that is gathering exhibition momentum: having been shown in PHI, Montreal; Open Gallery, OCADU, Toronto; 'Shivering ' mini-symposium, Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg; and Transitio_MX 05, Mexico.
I would like to thank the transplant team for their generosity and their remarkable strength of mind.
Copyright © Catherine Richards. All Rights Reserved.