Heartland: unfinished sympathy is the first in an ongoing series of ‘maps’ that collate the lore of the heart. Through history and across diverse cultures, the heart has represented the centre of our personal universe, and been considered the site of the soul’s presence in the body. This simply attests to the fact that we all share the same originating experience: the first heartbeat signals the arrival of anima in the world of matter.
Mapmaking adapts the territory to fit the signs, and yet representations and embodied experience are always inextricably entwined when we form any understanding of the world. Maps establish orientations, but what occurs in the field of experience is what comes to matter.
Hearts, brains, bones, nerves are not simply comprised of atoms, cells, electrical impulses, genes, proteins etc – they are formed as much by our understandings, by our readings of them, whether in the language of scientific fact, or romantic poetry or folk wisdom; whether through the visualisations of the MRI, or the anatomical sketch, or the image of self. And although, in the modern paradigm, the heart has been reduced to ‘merely a muscle’, there is now an increasing collection of scientific research that contradicts this standard interpretation.
These maps of the heart bring together folk expressions, scientific research, medical fact, poetry and mythologies from many cultures, weaving all together to form the ‘maps’, which define the terrain. The map is woven with words since through words we construct our understandings of hearts and their functions. In this view, however, no single genre of knowledge is privileged over the other – instead they are part of a continuum of human experience, connected by language.
This work was shown in the group exhibition Precious curated by Nick Tsoutas at SCA Galleries, April 2011.