G Lands: An Out of Body Experience, An Artist Residency @ The Centre for Regenerative Medicine

Osirus, the Egyptian God of the afterlife and the human salivary gland, unrelated entities? Not to Artist Emily Fong. Emily is completing an artist residency in Emmerson Lab in the Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM), University of Edinburgh led by Dr. Elaine Emmerson. Seeing a human organ outside the body undergoing research in a laboratory has been inspiring and thought-provoking for the visual artist. She has become fascinated with the idea of the salivary gland having an ‘afterlife’ after surgical removal and with going on a journey with the orphaned organ. For this project, she has named the gland ‘Osirus’ and the project, ‘G’-Lands’.


Osiris, our protagonist, our salivary gland, who lives in the G-lands, located everywhere and nowhere all at once. Osiris is your gland and mine. Will you join us on this out-of-body experience?

Salivary gland, Osiris in the Emmerson Lab fridge: CRM. Emily Fong, 2018

Is Osiris alive? Is Osiris dead? It’s quirky, yes, but I like having an imaginary friend in the lab. When I’m looking under the microscope, it’s not just a thing; it’s this fluorescent landscape that I’m looking at. It’s a personality; it exists. I really like using this character to drive my creative process to invite people into this landscape that is the ‘G-lands’ – the glands.

At ASCUS Art & Science we have supported and championed artists gaining access to institutional, seemingly inaccessible science research labs in a number of our projects over the years and the brilliant learning and contexts this can bring to those involved. It is one of the most direct ways in which we carry out our aim of uniting the arts and sciences, we are delighted to be supporting Emily’s work. Before the artist started her residency in the Emmerson lab, she attended ASCUS Lab’s skills courses last year.  She became familiar with the tools of science and basic lab skills in microscopy and microbiology creating a series of microscopy slides as an explorative anatomical archive. She described her experience as a ” little bit life-changing”.

The Lab

With her team at the Emmerson Lab, Dr. Emmerson is developing a regenerative strategy to restore salivary function after radiotherapy and surgery, she has embraced Emily as a valued part of her team. The Emmerson Lab is working at the forefront of worldwide medical research,  developing a new technology that can be implanted into injured organs allowing throat cancer survivors to salivate again.

The Artist

Emily is an artist exploring life and death, the embodiment of emotion and the experience of existing in a human container. Her artistic practice is underpinned by the observation and communication of the life cycles of living things; growth, mortality, and change from the micro to the macro. Through the mediums of drawing, painting, sculpture, and writing, she seeks to highlight our similarities not only to one another but also to other species that occupy this planet.

The project

Emily will observe and accompany ‘Osirus’ the salivary gland, from the time it is removed from the patient to the research it undergoes. She will have conversations with patients, surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, and research scientists, learning the different perspectives of those who interact with the salivary gland. These interactions and observations will be documented through drawing and sculpture.

CRM Emmerson Lab Tissue Culture Core, Emily Fong 2018

Emily said:

“By creatively mapping the out-of-body experience through conversation, observation, drawing and sculpture, we will encounter the planets orbiting Osiris; the patient, the surgeon, the oncologist, the pathologist, the scientist and the public. In making the salivary gland the protagonist, all voices are equal, united by their common interest: exploring the G-Lands.”

The experience will be shared through exhibitions, workshops and talks. The art-science collaboration also involves multiple partnerships including, The Throat Cancer Foundation, Surgeons’ Hall Museum and Health Care Professionals from NHS Lothian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Keep in touch with the project on Emily’s  ‘G-Lands’ Blog.

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