Air Heads

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


Borland's practice often uncovers the ways in which 'institutions exploit and devalue life'. For this new piece, commissioned for the exhibition, Borland has used Norwich Castle's collection of phrenology and death heads as her inspiration. Phrenology was a pseudoscience prominent during the early nineteenth century and was based upon the belief that mental characteristics could be determined by measuring the physical characteristics of the skull. The phrenology collection at Norwich Castle began as an attempt to test the theory to see whether all criminals were prone to illegal activity due to the shape of their skulls. Largely discredited by the 1830s it later became a source of fairground entertainment. Borland was drawn to the death heads of two local women, Frances Billings and Catherine Frarey, who were executed at Norwich Castle following conviction for poisoning and murder. Borland uses resuscitation dummies, the most famous of which, Resusci Annie, has the face of an alleged suicide victim found in the River Seine at the turn of the twentieth century. The history of medicine and how it has influenced the way we see and understand the body, are central concerns of Christine Borland's work. In the mid 1990s Borland discovered it was possible to purchase human skeletons via mail order. Equally fascinated and horrified, Borland began to make works that imagined the lost identities of those whose skeletons had become a commodity to be purchased for use in medical education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventNo Visible Means of Escape - Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Duration: 1 Jan 2009 → …


Dive into the research topics of 'Air Heads'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this