Kilcreggan-based artist Christine Borland often works with non-art related experts and institutions to create her work, drawing on areas such as forensic science, the history of medicine and human genetics. Her sculptural forms have been made using many materials including bronze, fabric and plaster. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997.
‘The way I develop projects usually involves some kind of expert dialogue and a journey through an organization, to meet the right person. Usually what happens is that I end up speaking to someone who is seen as a bit of a maverick in their field – often that’s because they are pushing the boundaries of the job and are open to conversations with artists and across disciplines
‘The meeting between an expert and a non-expert always has creative potential. I really love what the curiosityand creative thinking of artists can bring to these situations. Often I start with some loose questions and something happens from the seeking and answering of those questions. If a relationship develops it’s important to me that it’s reciprocal.
‘I’m really passionate about artists and their work not being instrumentalised in order to just illustrate or communicate on behalf of other disciplines, specifically scientific disciplines. It’s also very important that it’s not just me co-opting expert knowledge – it’s always appropriate to build in lots of time to find the right people to work with and find reasons to work together
‘The direction of my current Flax project with in Huntly, partly came about because I was just coming out of a big two-year project with Glasgow Museums. I’d spent a lot of time in their stores looking at artefacts and I was intrigued to find that the building that now houses Deveron used to contain a small museum; a room of unloved artefacts, a lot of which relate to the once thriving flax and linen industry in Huntly.
‘I made a proposal starting with planting flax and at the moment I’m working alongside growers from the local area. We’re all non-experts in this instance and the timeframe of planting, growing, harvesting, and then processing the flax into linen fibre dictates the period for developing future ideas. During this time I’m finding relevant experts too; in Heritage at the Highland Folk Museum, and plant scientists and historians.
‘The research process within institutions has to be tightly controlled and monitored. What I’m most interested in looking at is the stuff that would normally fall between the gaps. That could be around uncovering a personal narrative, lost identity or a kind of human link that, being outside these systems, I’m able to bring out and explore. Because I’m an artist, I’m looking at it imaginatively.’
IMAGES: CHRISTINE BORLAND