Christine Borland, Conservatory, 2004, Engraved ceramic, three wood and glass shelves, Edition of 3
Lisson Gallery announces its third solo exhibition of work by Christine Borland.
In this series of new works, Christine Borland begins an exploration of the relatively new area of Communication Skills as it relates to the medical profession. Studying communication has become a key element in the education of medical students who have recently begun to be taught about body language, paralinguistics and the power of silence in tandem with their traditional curriculum. In an effort to advance understanding of their patients, doctors are asked to participate in games and role-play, which aim to help them deal more effectively and compassionately with the public. Borland's new works transpose this dynamic into a gallery setting, initiating a new layer of intense and intimate relationships proposing implications far beyond the world of medicine.
In Observational Skills, Mirroring, Empathetic Listening, Para Linguistics, Borland devises a series of interactive games in which the viewer is invited to participate. Although ostensibly frivolous, these games introduce the key elements of communication skills necessary in a patient/doctor relationship. The viewer is thus immediately invited to begin to view the power balance of this relationship from a different perspective.
The installation Simulated Patient is based on role-play situations where medical students practice dealing with a range of difficult scenarios, many of which involve breaking bad news to patients. These 'patients', played by professional actors, undergo 'consultations', which take place in small 'surgeries' filmed on closed circuit TV and relayed to a classroom next door. Borland has the same actress play all the different 'patient' roles, some of them written by the artist, while various students play themselves as the 'doctors'. The presentation of this work deflects the viewer's voyeurism by concentrating on the 'use of silence' in the consultations. The viewer finds her/himself empathising with difficult position of the doctor as well as the tragic circumstances of the patient. Relief is also experienced in that the 'worst case' scenario unfolding is under controlled but convincing circumstances.
In Home Testing, Borland presents a more sculpturally formal series of games whereby we are informed of a series of probability statistics and invited to use the custom-made dice and receptacles to put them to the test. The statistics are all related to pregnancy and present a scenario that anyone expecting a baby now faces upon stepping into the medical arena. Recent developments in genetics have meant an increased knowledge of risk and a subsequent range of choices and dilemmas, which are likely to widen and escalate in the future. Home Testing is an attempt at empowerment by providing simple, hands-on means to translate baffling statistics into something personal.
Born in Glasgow in 1965, Christine Borland has exhibited extensively in Europe and the U.S. in numerous group and solo shows including Art Gallery of Toronto; Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, Scotland; De Appel, Amsterdam; Art Gallery of York University, Toronto; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and Dunkers Kulturhus, Sweden.
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