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In pre-Christian Europe, humans performed what we now call pagan ritual in an attempt to influence the future behavior of nature. Part of this practice involved making idols called corn dolls; these objects were made from binding strands of wheat or corn into a variety of intricate shapes and patterns.

In contemporary society however, the branch of knowledge known as genomics has given scientists the true ability to control nature in the future development of animal and plant species, thanks to an understanding of the complex patterns held within the structure of DNA.


Through a shared creative process, two genomic scientists  Prof. David MacHugh (UCD) and Dr. Donagh Berry (Teagasc) and I will devise a series of sculptures using the information held within the genetic signature of a number of Dovea Genetic's (an artificial insemination co-operative with a bull stud farm) pedigree bulls and their calves.


The sculptures will be made from semen straws - pop-colored storage receptacles used in the artificial insemination process. Using these straws, the genetic signatures will be transmuted into the different binding patterns and colour distributions to create large wearable sculptures. Each sculpture will be made specifically for the animal whose genetic signature it denotes.


The animals will wear these sculptures at three live events, including the National Ploughing Championships - Irelands foremost annual agricultural show.


The project culminates in an exhibition in the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin 2, curated by Patrick T. Murphy and an accompanying catalogue charting the development of the project will be produced.


Maria McKinney is a visual artist working in sculpture and installation and is currently artist-in-residence with UCD Science. Her work considers the complexities that structure our everyday environment. Selecting things that already exist in the world for purposes of distraction, consumption or insulation, (jigsaw puzzles, shopping baskets and expanding foam), Maria uses a process of manipulation in response to their form as well as their unseen properties. In an environment where the unseen (microscopic, atomic, digital) is becoming ever more manipulable, which in turn affects our relationship to the physical, Maria's is a gesture to contemplate the unrevealed systems that constitute our daily reality and coax visual stimulus from within their structure to the surface.


During her residency Maria pursued two routes of enquiry.


The second is in the earlier stages of development and revolves around a number of areas: 3D scanning, 3D printing, diagnostic imaging,  digital artifacts, evolution, prosthetics and archeology.


Maria writes:


" (1) Beginning with the strategy of working with the found object -­ which in this case are data files containing three-­dimensional representations of things found in the exterior world of the corporeal – I have become aware of the prevalence of three dimensional prosthesis files that are designed and produced in a bespoke manner for those who have lost parts of their body (primarily hands) due to injury, or other individuals born with underdeveloped extremities (mutations – the driving force for evolution). This has had distinct though unexpected resonances with my initial question as to the possible relationship between handcraft and 3D printing (please see: http://cargocollective.com/mariamckinney/Memory-Sticks-1)


An additionally significant aspect is Archeology's employment of 3d scanning to record and disseminate artifacts, many of which would have been handmade (or employed what we could consider rudimentary technology) by long-gone societies. The retro-digital-image output acts like a type of reverberation between original and copy. I would like to involve this in the enquiry into hand, handcraft and technology.


Collaborating with a cross-­section of experts, it is my aim to produce a body of work that explores the notions outlined above and to develop a range of hand/tools in response to:


Alternative routes of evolution (mutations – eg. Polydactyly)

– From a historical perspective

– In anticipation of the future – how will our hands develop in tandem with




– Replacement of missing digits due to accidents through artificial (3D printing) and biological (regenerative medicine) means.

My replacements will not be of the conventional nature – they will take into account other possible modes of development and with a possibility of drawing from science-­fiction sources as well as from other species.'




maria-mckinney-web 1. hand-scanned_preview_featured 2. untitled_3_preview_featured 4.-Chos,-Polydactyl-dog_web 5.-photo_web 8.-cow-picture_web

This is a scanned left hand for the creation of a model for creating finger prosthetic attachments.


The Make Article is here http://makezine.com/2013/10/14/help-a-make-fan-by-giving-him-the-finger/

Knick's finger, v1.0, downloadable prosthetic for missing finger.

Chos, Maria's Uncle's dog.

Maria's own right hand with the top part of her index finger missing due to a childhood accident with neighbours' farming machinery.

Draft sketch for Genetic Bull sculpture project.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust.


'Garlands'. Documentation of ephemeral event.

Semen straws, straws, glue, ribbon, dimensions variable.

Artlink project for agricultural shows in Donegal, Ireland, 2011.

'Garlands'. Documentation of ephemeral event.

Semen straws, straws, glue, ribbon, dimensions variable.

Artlink project for agricultural shows in Donegal, Ireland, 2011.

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Live installation at the

National Ploughing Championships, Tullamore, 2015