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Helen Pynor

Darramurragal and Gadigal Country
Sydney, NSW, Australia


Capacity forms part of an ongoing research project titled Habitation – an investigation into the collapse of the animate-inanimate boundary within the body resulting from the widespread use of prosthetics, a project prompted by Pynor’s recent hip replacement surgery. Capacity draws from Pynor’s archive of CT and X-ray scans, that trace changes to her hip bone structure over time. The lightboxes suggest the act of surgical intervention, transformation, and re-materialisation of her body post-surgery, registering the moment her femur bone was surgically excised. Surgically excised tissues have an ambiguous legal and physical fate, usually disposed of as waste without consultation. Navigating medical prohibitions, Pynor gained permission to retain her removed bone material, raising important questions about ownership and personal agency over ‘life forms’ excised from the body.

At a literal level, the work’s title references the declining capacity of Pynor’s hip and the restoration of function following surgery and intensive rehabilitation. On a metaphoric level the title refers to the latent symbolic and material capacity of surgically excised human tissues, to be incorporated into creative and even ceremonial processes. Capacity extends Pynor’s interests in duration and memory registered in the tissues of the body. Her visual language of translucency, luminosity and smoke-like forms, used to allude to transitional states and life’s shifting states of matter and energy, is evident in the material and visual language of the work.

Pynor’s broader research seeks to challenge perceptions of the body as a passive recipient of human engineered implants.

CT Scan Data, 2D Output: Zoe Hart, Corin Group; CT Scan Data Postproduction: Sam Sobey; Digital Image Postproduction: Richard Luxton; Graphic Design: Fiona Hudson, Otis Design; Printing and Digital Image Postproduction: High Res Digital; Framing: Graphic Art Mount; Photographer’s Model: Brett Adrien; Photographer’s Assistant: Tim Simon.

The Artist
Helen Pynor

Dr Helen Pynor is a Sydney and London-based Artist and Researcher whose practice explores philosophically and experientially ambiguous zones, such as the life-death boundary.