Helen Pynor

Further information

Country of origin

Australia / United Kingdom



Helen Pynor originally trained as a biologist before training and practicing as an artist.


Helen's interests lie in the re-imagining of the interior human body, in the permeability between cultural and biological processes in the body, and in the capacity of biological organisms, tissues, and cells to invent and improvise. She has recently completed a doctoral thesis in this area. Helen is currently based in London.

Research project

The Body is a Big Place

‘The Body is a Big Place’ is an ongoing collaborative project between Helen Pynor and Peta Clancy exploring possibilities for developing an empathic language of the interior body. The research will question whether it is possible to present the interior of the body in a way that avoids gore and sensationalism, but which also avoids the objectification of the interior body through its over medicalisation.

The starting point for the project has been an investigation of the processes and practices of organ transplantation. The researchers’ interest is in the complex and ambiguous ways that organ donors and recipients, and their loved ones, personalize the organs that are involved in organ transfer, and in the capacity for organ transfer to call into question notions of the unitary subject. Some of this material has been informed by time spent at the Lung Transplant Unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

During their residency at SymbioticA, Pynor and Clancy will explore the metaphoric, conceptual, and technical possibilities of maintaining paired animal hearts and lungs in a ‘functioning’ state in vitro, using an organ perfusion system.

The researchers hope to experiment with the possibilities and limits of ‘personalising’ the organs they work with, and to grapple with the conundrum of the domination of the technological interface in the experience of in vitro organs, during both the experimental phase and when presented in a public context.


Visual Arts Board, Australia Council for the Arts

Inter-Arts Office, Australia Council for the Arts

Faculty of Art & Design, Monash University

  • Peta Clancy (Project Collaborator)
  • Gail Priest (Sound Artist)

Period of research

November – December 2010