The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 2 Dec-Sun 28 Jan 2007
A mid-career retrospective of Christine Borland’s work has been awaited on home turf for sometime - mainland Europe having seen retrospectives in the late 90s. So, a review, in the capital, arrives with great anticipation - most notably for her newly commissioned work. Although Borland’s practice has varied in focus over the years, common themes of the human condition and its relationship to science and medicine have remained constants. The development of these themes and their relationship to this new work provide an appropriate punctuation in a career, which, to date, has arguably been one of the most successful of her generation.
The stimulus for one of these new works is the tree that Hippocrates, the father of medicine is said to have taught under, or rather the structure that has been built to support its fragile limbs. The structure will be reconstructed within the gallery, a man-made skeleton built to support the symbol of life that the tree has come to represent. Cuttings and seeds from the tree have spawned many derivatives, including one at the University of Glasgow’s Department of Medical Genetics (noted by Borland on a previous project). Another new work concerning the tree Newton discovered gravity under, will also be exhibited, demonstrating a clear shift in Borland’s focus from practice to practitioner.
In earlier works, Borland’s concerns have too referenced science and medicine, reassessing it, she acts as archivist to the ethics of science and medical procedure. Her seminal work, ‘Second Class Male/Second Class Female’, 1996, two forensic facial reconstructions from skulls bought mail order, will also be included in the exhibition. This work exemplifies Borland’s interest in the notion of self and the de-personalisation of the medically archived subject, which, along with other earlier works, acts as artefact to the morals and ethics of his stimuli. These issues are no stranger to Hippocrates, who, in the 300s BC, had a heightened set of moral and religious codes to manage. This collection will act as archive to a significant and tightly woven body of work, which charts the frailty of the human condition.