DIVINING FRAGMENTS: RECONCILING THE BODY
curated by Kóan-Jeff Baysa
November 1 – December 21, 2003
The human body is a slippery surface upon which discourses of race, class, gender, and sexuality are mediated, and thus becomes a contested scientific, political, ethical, cultural, economic, and social site.
Since human subjectivity and identity are linked to the changing perceptions of vision and visualization, we make and remake our visual experiences of the world within these different contexts. In diagnostic imaging, the areas of visualization, medicine, and technology come together. Using the term “divining” synonymously with “diagnosing” the exhibition title Divining Fragments: Reconciling the Body refers to the history of diagnostics, from prognosticating over the internal organs of animals and ill gotten human specimens to visualizing the unseeable through dissection, microscopy, sonograms, x-rays, CAT, MRI and PET scans, including alternative techniques like phrenology, Kirlian and aura photography, as well as total body scanning from military applications.Continue Reading...
Confronted with the exposure of a public presentation of our private anatomy we experience the loss of boundaries and control, evoking issues of physicality, vulnerability, and mortality. Through the imaging and re-imagining of the human body these visual technologies have a profound impact on human self-understanding and behavior, often through implications outside of clinical application. They bring the relationships between health and knowledge under essential scrutiny, questioning the way that meaning is negotiated. The manufacturers of these machines would have us believe that their technologies produce unbiased images that reveal truths about an individual’s condition, but discrepancies exist between “machine vision” and “human vision”. Much of the psychophysical data used in the past to engineer high-performance networked imaging systems is not consistent with the current knowledge of the human nervous system, and compensating enhancements of the image risk misinterpretation and the introduction of artifacts. The design of information transmission, storage, and processing devices need a better fit between opto-electronics and human nervous systems.
Historically, the partial or fragmented image suggested grief and nostalgia for the loss of a vanished totality and a utopian wholeness. In diagnostic imaging, the body is examined in detail, piecemeal and irreconciled, described in terms of “cuts” and “slices”. The body in pieces, viewed as relics and synecdoches, constitute deconstructed images of humans and problematize issues of creation and re-creation, existence and mortality, integration and dissolution, especially when the images of the dematerialized body are solely transduced from digital code, existing as pure information.
Advanced medical imaging technologies came into clinical use in successive decades: CAT in the 70s, MRI in the 80s, and PET in the 90s. Unlike CAT scans that rely on the summation of x-ray images and PET scans that rely on the decay of an injected radioactive pharmaceutical, MRI does not involve radiation. Instead it uses a powerful magnet and the spin of hydrogen atoms in the body’s water to generate the images. It is astonishing to think of MRI and PET scans as the body’s way of illuminating itself from within through subatomic particles.
That there are dire consequences of equating photos with the real have been pointed out by cultural critics John Berger and Susan Sontag. Medical images circulate similarly within this belief system and are often thought to be equivalent to the bodies represented within them. Realizing that MRI images are only re-presentations and partial truths empowers us to recognize the political, social, and economic factors that affect the interpretation of these images.
The deployment of medical imaging pictures by contemporary visual artists reflects the innovative and alternative perspectives that art often offers to science, while acknowledging that both art and science are investigated by social beings within social contexts.
– Koán-Jeff Baysa, 2003
A practicing physician, writer, critic, and curator whose studies concern the “sensate body” and the mediation of the world through the senses–particularly smell–Koán-Jeff Baysa explores and interrogates sites at which culture, aesthetics, and medical science converge. He has curated shows for the London, LA, and Chinese Biennials as well as for institutions as wide-ranging as the Whitney Museum, the United Nations, and Canon Corporation, while also serving as an active organizer of art events throughout the globe. He currently holds the position of Director of Arts Programming at The Institute for Art and Olfaction and works as Chief Strategist for his Los Angeles-based company SENSEight.
[one_half first]Justine Cooper[/one_half] [one_half]Mark Kessell[/one_half] [one_half first]Lilla LoCurto & William Outcalt[/one_half] [one_half]Patrick Martinez[/one_half] [one_half first]Steve Miller[/one_half] [one_half]Warren Neidich[/one_half] [one_half first]Chrysanne Stathacos[/one_half] [one_half]Kunie Sugiura[/one_half] [one_half first]Unknown Artist[/one_half] [one_half]David Webster[/one_half] [one_half first]Jeff Wyckoff[/one_half]