The project began when Christine Borland discovered a fibreglass sculpture in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.
The 19th century plaster cast was an anonymous, partially dissected body titled From Nature and attributed to the surgeon Sir John Goodsir.
Audiences in Glasgow were able to view Borland from a specially constructed arena, via a live feed, as she moulded and recast the original sculpture. The dramatic pose of the figure, lying prone with his back arched, resembles Michaelangelo’s Pieta (1499) raising questions of beauty in artistic representations of the dead body. The performative nature of the procedure evoked the anatomy theatre of the original dissection and the hands-off position of modern surgical observation rooms; this process is inherent in the final presentation.
Expanding her ongoing interest in the overlaps between art, the body and medicine, this poetic transformation challenged the certainty of science through the ambiguity of art. ‘I want people to be thinking back to the dissection process, which was the starting point here. In doing something hands on I’m inserting myself in an active role. There’s always an assumption that what I’m doing is a simple critique. But I’m not just saying look, this poor guy was anatomised, posed, cast, made into a sculpture… it’s making me complicit, adding complexity to the whole story.’ – Christine Borland.