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Alec Finlay

Alec Finlay's work Chimera and his series organ-stones (both 2014) featured in Material Concerns at LifeSpace.

The poem-drawing Chimera is the result of conversations between the artist and Dr. Tom Shakespeare (co-founder of the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute at the University of Newcastle) in which they discussed ethics and bodily identify, and how one might describe the current situation of our no longer being fixed biological entities. The word 'chimera' has as its origins a mythological term but is widely used in biology, to describe the mixture of genetics and tissue, grafts, and fusions of embryos. With increased research into stem cells it may be possible to create ‘chimeric immune systems’ in the body using cells from the donor and the recipient, which will reduce the risk of rejection of transplanted organs.

‘organ-stones’, found and selected by Alec Finlay and Amy Todman, with Leonie Dunlop and Hanna Tuulikki. 2014.
The series 'organ-stones' relate to Alec Finlay’s project Taigh: a wilding garden – the National Memorial for Organ & Tissue Donors in Scotland in the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. The Taigh draws on traditional dwellings such as Taigh na Caillich, in Glen Lyon. A book containing the names of every donor in Scotland is buried in a kist under its foundations. The images are of ‘organ-stones’, collected from the River Lyon, which have been embedded within the turf roof of the Taigh. The stones perform a mimetic function, referring to the organs in a symbolic way but also suggesting the gift from donors to recipients. Some tissues and organs may be less recognizable; islets, for example, are clusters of cells scattered throughout the pancreas that regulate blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes results from the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the islets and can be treated by transplantation.

Alec Finlay (b. 1966) is an artist and poet who lives and works in Edinburgh. Recent projects include Sweeney’s Bothy, an artist-residency hut for the Isle of Eigg, and Global Oracle, a reflection on bees and prophecy installed at Talbot Rice Gallery Edinburgh as part of Generation and available as a book and podcast. Alec Finlay’s collection of artists’ books was the foundation of abcD (the artist’s book collection Dundee) in the collections of the University of Dundee.



Image credit: Organ-stones (liver) found and selected by Alec Finlay and Amy Todman, with Leonie Dunlop and Hanna Tuulikki. 2014. Photograph by Hannah Devereaux.