Kirsty Hendry, Navel Gazing (still), 2020. Courtesy the artist.

Kirsty Hendry Exhibition Opens 24 October

Collective is delighted to present Navel Gazing, a new exhibition by Glasgow based artist Kirsty Hendry which will open on Saturday 24 October. Drawing on Kirsty’s research into the history of medicine and ventriloquism, Navel Gazing centres on the articulate and fractious character of ‘The Gut’, who rails against their subjugation to the ‘rational’ brain and performs a canny inversion of the historic function of the City Observatory. Whereas the observatory here on Calton Hill once looked out into space to track the stars in transit, Navel Gazing explores our inner-space as a new threshold of knowledge.

The term ‘navel gazing’ - often now used pejoratively to suggest self-involvement - has roots as a form of meditation (omphaloskepsis) used to focus on the inner world of the mind-body and spirituality. While the 17th century philosopher René Descartes famously stated “I think therefore I am” - establishing the primacy of the logical brain at the centre of European philosophy – more recent research has established that the colonies of micro-organisms that live inside our stomachs, play a vital part in how we experience the world. Not only do they help us process food, they are essential to our emotional and mental well-being and help shape our perceptions. Science is showing that our ‘gut-brains’ are an integral, formative part of who we are.

Navel Gazing considers the contradiction between how our bodies are thought to communicate essential truths in our ‘gut feelings’ but are at the same time considered suspect and untrustworthy in their rhythms and changes. Through her research Kirsty expanded this question to consider why we conceive of my-self as something distinct from my-body. In a heightened and inflamed performance, the character of The Gut, performed by Aby Watson, embraces all the criticisms that have been levelled at her for being “too raw, too needy, too sensitive, too emotional”. The Gut reminds us that we can no longer rely on the idea of a fixed or singular ‘I’ at the centre of ourselves, when science is showing us that we depend on the millions of organisms (the many microbiomes that make up our bodies) who help shape our existence.

The Gut speaks for both our emotional lives and the corporeal pleasures, pains and fluctuations of our bodies, insisting that we are, perhaps unconsciously, being oppressed by social and political systems that seek to regulate our feelings and the habits of our bodies as un-natural.

Online discussion event:

There will be an online discussion event with artist Kirsty Hendry and performer Aby Watson hosted by Collective, on Thursday November 12th at 6pm.

Kirsty Hendry is an artist and facilitator living in Glasgow who develops projects exploring labour, work, and the body. Selected projects include: Reader’s Digest commissioned by Market Gallery Glasgow as part of Reproductive Technologies (2019); Self-Service, publication and events programme in collaboration with Ilona Sagar at Centre for Contemporary Art and GoMA for Glasgow International 2018; So You See Me at Cooper Gallery, Dundee (2017); Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (organised by Kati Kärki, with Jude Browning, Jake Watts and Magda Buczek), Figure 4 at Baltic 39, Newcastle, UK (2017) and Tenderpixel: Futures, ICA, London, UK (2015).

Satellites Programme is Collective’s development programme for emergent artists and producers based in Scotland. Satellites aims to support practitioners at a pivotal, emergent point in their careers through a critical programme of retreats, workshops, studio visits and group discussions, public exhibitions, events and publishing. Artists are selected from an open submission by a new panel each year. The 2020 participants are Alison Scott, Kirsty Hendry, Sulaïman Majali, Holly McLean and Becky Šik.