‘The Body is a Big Place’

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Peta Clancy and Helen Pynor have explored the intersection of art and the life sciences for more than a decade, both collaboratively and independently. Their collaborative project ‘The Body is a Big Place’ is a research and exhibition project exploring organ transplantation, developed during 2010-2011. Its first public outcome was a commissioned, large-scale immersive installation at Performance Space, Sydney (2011), and an in-depth on-line exhibition exploring the 2-year development of the project on the Leonardo Electronic Almanac site (2011).

‘The Body is a Big Place’ was a large-scale, immersive installation developed through collaboration between artists and scientists. The work explored organ transplantation and the ambiguous thresholds between life and death, revealing the process of death as an extended durational process, rather than an event that occurs in a single moment in time. The work’s title referred to the capacity for parts of the body to traverse vast geographic, temporal and interpersonal distances during organ transplantation processes. As part of the installation a fully functioning heart perfusion system was used to reanimate to a beating state a pair of fresh pig hearts during 2 live performances. Rather than sensationalising these events, the artists sought to encourage empathic responses from viewers, opening up the possibility of a deeper awareness of viewers’ own interiors. Performers in the work’s projected underwater video sequences were members of the organ transplant community in Melbourne, individuals who have traversed extraordinary experiences in the form of receiving, donating, or standing closely by loved ones as they received or posthumously donated human organs.

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Links to Artist’s websites:



The Body is a Big Place

Peta Clancy and Helen Pynor

New media installation and pig hearts performances
5-channel video projection, heart perfusion device, single video screen, soundscape by Gail Priest
Performance Space, Sydney, Nov 2011

Installation photographs: Geordie Cargill, Peta Clancy, Helen Pynor

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