Few organs are as charged as the human heart. Seen as both the seat of human identity and the archetypal symbol of love, it is an organ that has been ascribed qualities and associations far beyond its anatomical functions. Since the first heart transplant in 1967, the technical aspects of the operation have been streamlined, and heart transplantation is now the accepted therapy for end-stage heart failure.
While significant research has been conducted in transplantation using the bio-medical model, few researchers have explicitly connected organ recipients’ experiences and cultural views about transplantation to the notion of embodiment. And until recently, little inquiry has been made into the emotional or psychological states of the recipient post-surgery.
In 2010 Dr. Heather Ross, Dr. Susan Abbey, Enza De Luca, Oliver E. Mauthner, Dr. Patricia McKeever, Dr. Magrit Shildrick, and Dr. Jennifer Poole published a groundbreaking and controversial paper entitled “What they say versus what we see: ‘hidden’ distress and impaired quality of life in heart transplant recipients” in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation. This transdisciplinary research team, PITH (the Process of Incorporating a Transplanted Heart), spearheaded an effort to investigate the under-examined emotional and psychological effects of heart transplantation.
With the goal of bringing this concern to the general public, they invited four artists—Ingrid Bachmann, Andrew Carnie, Catherine Richards, and Alexa Wright—to draw from PITH’s research data for the purpose of creating new works that explore diverse aspects of this complex phenomenon, such as inter-corporeality, community, mythology, and symbolism around the heart.
The resulting Hybrid Bodies project examines organ recipients’ experiences and cultural views about transplantation, linking them to ideas of embodiment, identity, and kinship. The aim of this project is to explore the complexity of organ transplantation in a novel way that raises awareness and makes it accessible to the public, providing a context to discuss and explore these ideas.
Works executed in a range of media will be presented in this first public iteration of Hybrid Bodies, which we hope will provide a tangible focus for these discussions.
– Ingrid Bachmann, 2013
Dr. Heather Ross
Dr. Margrit Shildrick
Jennifer M. Poole