What does it mean to carry someone else’s heart inside you?
Maxine Segalowitz and Linnea Gwiazda tackle the question with their own bodies. The Canadian dancers contort their limbs, sometimes in similar – but individualized – ways, sometimes with seemingly opposite movements. Action and reaction. Yin and yang. And sometimes they seem to somehow merge together. They pull each other closer and then push each other away, move closer, move away, one catches the other as her body limply falls.
They performed the piece The Gift live as they simultaneously played on video at “Hybrid Bodies,” at Kunstkraftwerk (KKW). Prepare for optical illusion and interactive surprises as you explore different components of the exhibit.
Nearby, wires and sensors spill out of something that sort of looks like a brain. It’s the piece A/Part of Me, via which visitors can listen to audio bites from transplant recipients’ interviews, and feel the vibrations on their heads.
The Montreal-based artist and researcher who created both The Gift and A/Part of Me, Ingrid Bachmann, was on site at the opening. Along with other international artists participating in the Leipzig exhibit, she gave personal insights and explained her creative process and science regarding heart transplants.
The exhibit brings four artists together from Canada and the UK in exploring the theme of heart transplants via various styles and media, from watercolors to digital to sculptures to a 3D canvas. Artists conducted first-hand research on the theme and received material from transplant specialists.
My experience with the exhibit started in the bathroom, as I went to wash my hands. The soap was shaped like a heart – the organ, not the symbol – and I handled it with more care than I would a regular soap bar.
It’s part of the installation named A Tender Heart, by UK-based artist and academic Andrew Carnie. Inside KKW, hearts made of soap, in different colors, hang from the ceiling. Carnie explained that, among other elements, it represents the need for patients to remain constantly clean following a heart transplant, to prevent infection.
The collaboration between artists and scientists gives an extra layer of depth to “Hybrid Bodies,” which is part of a larger, long-term international project. It made me reflect on something I hadn’t previously given much thought to, although I recently went through a major loss in my family having to do with compromised organs.
Many people who have encountered serious illness, whether in themselves or loved ones, will be able to relate to the exhibit. One can think of organ transplants in general (or the prospect of having one), and how crucial and scary they can be.
Needless to say, it’s never a simple surgery, both for what’s physically and emotionally involved. Having one’s organ replaced with someone else’s can be so essential for survival. Meanwhile, often the person who has made survival possible for the other has died.
Life and death can feel like a roulette that way.
And then there’s the possible rejection of the organ by the recipient’s body. The complicated recovery period. The intimate relationship with the donor, perhaps as intimate as one can ever get with someone else. It can be by osmosis with a deceased donor – literally, as characteristics or memories of donors have been known to manifest in recipients – or shared in cases where recipient and donor could actually meet, or already know each other.
In some cases, like that of my father (who recently died of a very aggressive form of cancer), an organ transplant would’ve been the best case scenario, had it been at all possible. In some others, it’s the most dreaded, as the risk of death can be quite big. The risk also exists, and is very real, that the gravely ill person won’t live long enough to even have the necessary transplant. Often it’s hard to find a match or even get on the list for transplants.
And the roulette keeps spinning…
26 Aug- 18 Sept
Wed-Sun, 10 am to 5 pm
Part of the 2016 KKW program under Art Director: