Exhibition Review: Foreign Bodies


Posted 1 month ago in Arts and Culture, Exhibition Review

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Tucked away in Trinity College O’Reilly Institute is artist Judy Foley’s first solo show in Dublin. It offers a new way of looking at an underexplored and life changing object.

The medical implant, a device that extends and enhances human life, is displayed as accurate to-scale sculptures crafted by Foley. They demonstrate the inherent artistic value of these creations and the fluid dynamic between art and science in an original way facilitated by her artist residency with AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering.

The hand crafted production might at first glance feel at odds within the high-tech post human context, however Foley emphasises the way these tools are used as a way to extend life, that are not exempt from human mortality and will even deteriorate on display during the course of the exhibitions two week run. 

These tiny pieces of technology, that fundamentally alter and transcend the human condition, are painstakingly hand stitched using ancient methods. The process takes two to three days to complete a single valve, which when viewing in the exhibition appear both remarkable and unnoticeable in their miniscule forms. 

“These tiny pieces of technology, that fundamentally alter and transcend the human condition, are painstakingly hand stitched using ancient methods.”

The heart valves which resemble prehistoric artefacts in their lumpy and crude shapes are accurately measured high-tech biotechnology, crafted using open source designs Foley discovered online. These models are in line with prototypes she’s seen developed within the Biomechanical engineering department at Trinity, but would never ordinarily be viewed in this way for an aesthetically rather than scientifically minded audience.

Foley is confidently informed about scientific practice, with 18 years’ experience as a chemist in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry prior to embarking on her artistic career, which comparatively is in its early stages. Foley is enthused by the opportunity for both scientists and artists to learn from each other and it will be interesting to see further projects that this Dublin based artist embarks on. Her interest in the fluid dynamic, between the contexts across which we categorise objects, within art and science has the potential for further exploration. 500 years after the death of Leonardo da Vinci, work such as Foley’s offers encouraging signs towards a return in renaissance thinking that no longer holds the cultures of art and science as opposing ends. Maisie Linford 

Foreign Body runs in the O’Reilly Institute in Trinity College Dublin until March 28

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