Embryos

Mary J Anderson (Embryo Series), 2016

The Embryo Series is an ongoing project. Each Embryo is a differently coloured double sided mosaic panel and associated paperwork. The work is about being of mixed heritage and each Embryo represents a different fictional person. The associated paperwork builds a picture of their fictional life.

Every human being is the culmination of thousands of unique partnerships. Although we often don’t know much about more than the last couple of generations of our family. Given that we all have that unbroken line back to pre-history, the idea of being mixed race is at once factual but also a little ridiculous. My own recent heritage is easy to explain as facts – English, Pakistani, Baltic States, Irish or to give it other labels, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, no belief or white and brown. However, do any of those labels really define me? Not really. Its the combination that is the important thing to me – the intermingling of all those strands which make us at once unique and the same.

The Embryo Series explores this notion of intermingling – the overlapping of multiple colours and textures are representative of the mixing of generations that produced the person but the single colours on each side reflect how we tend to see ourselves – a mixture of the most recent generations of our families. This is understandable given your closeness in terms of time but less logical when considered in the wider view of history.

Of course this only considers your genetic make up and not your cultural heritage. This is much more interesting to me – its something you can choose to embrace, find intrusive in your life, ignore or long to know more about and everybody has a unique pattern. Cultural traditions, ideas and norms can vary widely and how you choose to embrace or reject, and in what combination makes you who you are. Its what makes the world an interesting place to me – the huge variety in this single basic biological entity – the person – it makes people infinitely variable, inexplicable, frustrating, lovable, loathsome, admirable, despicable, divine and awful… and hugely interesting.

Each Embryo in the series has associated paperwork. This is a collection of documents that builds a portrait of the person the embryo will become. Letters, certificates, cards, shopping lists – they give a glimpse into that life. With this as your starting point, the viewer can flesh out their picture of the fictional character. You will overlay the given starting point with your own viewpoint – your cultural ideas. Each viewer will begin to create a slightly different character, further adding to the notion that you may not be the person the world thinks you are. My view is that we are all so much more than the labels assigned to us and at the same time we all share the same biological beginnings. We are all the same but unique.