Medical Imaging and the Contemporary Clinical Encounter (December 2021)

A panel presentation and roundtable discussion with Silvia Casini, Beverley Hood and Liz Orton.


What is a “medical image” and how does it mediate the contemporary clinical encounter? How might we think about medical imaging as dynamic temporal and spatial human experiences, rather than as inert representations or disembodied technology? How and where are medical images produced, who do they belong to, and what do they want?

Giving Bodies back to Data, Silvia Casini

Drawing upon her recent book Giving Bodies back to Data (MIT, 2021) Silvia Casini opens up the black box of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology emphasising the important but often overlooked roles played by aesthetics, imagination, and craft practice in medical visualisation. Combining history, laboratory ethnography, archival research, and collaborative art–science, Casini retrieves the multiple presences and agencies of bodies in data visualization, mapping the traces of scientists’ body work and embodied imagination in data visualisation. The talk is a call to both artists and scientists to remain or become a humanist in the technologically dense world of biomedicine and neuroscience characterised by operational images and machine vision. 

Silvia Casini lectures in Film and Visual Culture at Aberdeen University and her courses are also attended by medical students. Her work is situated at the crossroad of visual culture, science studies, and the medical humanities. 

Immobile Choreography, Beverley Hood

Immobile Choreography is an installation by Beverley Hood, commissioned by Grampian Hospitals Art Trust in partnership with University of Aberdeen’s Bio Medical Physics department, in response to the IDentIFY research project, which is developing a new kind of medical scanner, Fast Field-Cycling Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FFC-MRI). The artwork uses video projection, 3D prints, LED light and audio and focuses on the potential of imaginatively materialising the body through the FFC-MRI process and apparatus; which makes immaterial our material bodies. During the MRI/FFC-MRI scanning process the subject is required to remain as still as possible, to be scanned successfully. However, being immobile does not mean that we are empty of potential, imagination or actual movement on a molecular level (which the FFC-MRI influences and aligns). The Immobile Choreography project poetically re-imagines movement within the parameters of the scanner apparatus; what this movement might be and how this relates to the effect of the magnetic resonance imaging process on our bodies.

Beverley Hood is an artist and Reader in Technological Embodiment and Creative Practice, at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. Her research practice interrogates the impact of technology on relationships, the body and human experience, through the creation of digital media and performance arts projects, and writing. She has worked collaboratively on numerous occasions, developing projects involving a range of practitioners, including medical researchers, scientists, writers, technologists, dancers, actors and composers.

Digital Insides / Every Body is an Archive, Liz Orton

Liz Orton undertook a four-year project about medical imaging in collaboration with radiologist Prof Steve Halligan at University College London Hospital, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Her website and book/performance Every Body is an Archive consider the mediated nature of medical imaging technology, the encounters between machines, bodies and mathematics. In particular Liz is interested in the possibility of freeing the medical image from the clinic, and enabling an imaginative return of images to patients. She explores the changing relationship between inside and outside, focusing on both the embodied and digital surface of the body. 

Liz Orton is an artist working with images and text and film, to explore ideas of authorship and voice, often using found or archival material. Her work engages widely with institutional collections, both real and imagined, to destabilise official truths and positions, and create spaces for unacknowledged sources of knowledge. She teaches at Kings, London College of Communications and is an Associate Artist with Performing Medicine.

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