Scotland & Medicine: Anatomy Acts


Powdercoated Aluminium, MDF, Mirrors, Mechanical Components


Anatomy Acts: How We Come to Know Ourselves

Edited by Andrew Patrizio and Dawn Kemp
Berlinn 2006
ISBN 1 84158 471 1

Sara Barnes, ‘Ecologies of Anatomy: commissioned work for Anatomy Acts.’ In ‘Anatomy Acts: How We Come to Know Ourselves’, edited by Andrew Patrizio and Dawn Kemp, published by Berlinn, 2006.

The haptic feedback involves exerting pressure on the end point (stylus) of the tool to gain tactile sensation and the stereo vision is achieved by the use of the glasses and a built in mirror in the display panel – a high-tech version of the original stereographs which afford the user with a floating digital 3D image which can be rotated in space. The user thus not only sees the 3D object, but feels it and can manipulate the objects and lines to create a variety of surfaces – feeling soft and spongy, for example, or hard and taut. The artist’s network of nerves transmitting information and functioning somewhere between touching and seeing, conceiving and cognition, is thus heightened by its woven connection with the electronic network of the system software. The Edinburgh project is aimed at designers, artists and animators, but with these fast developing capabilities, haptic systems are being researched and trialed as aids to learning anatomy and training in medical procedures.

The original stereoscopic images of the eye and the thorax are seen in isolation, distanced from their organic context -their bodily home – and viewed in a disembodied, abstract form. Yet the sepia images are startling as a reminder of the human body as organic in comparison to today’s visual objectification of the body and its parts as transformable, transfigured, transferable, transgenic. Here, the eye’s smooth, shiny globe lens with its reflection – a window in the sunlight? a face peering through a camera lens? – appears to pulsate with a primeval urge to either pop out from its flimsy filigree nest or else sink softly into its further depths, its tendrils ready to close protectively in. In Heath’s 3D drawing the doubling of the eye bristles with the intricate fragility of Borland’s gossamer spider webs and the bullet holes with their cracked, spindly spurs. From two small circular solids, Heath’s depictions of the eyes radiate from the centre into a silky blackness.

Heath’s network of snaking marks cosset, entwine and penetrate a central unrealised core, but do not yoke themselves to it. As with [Christine] Borland, [Joel] Fisher and [Kathleen] Jamie, the works continue in a meandering, open-ended and evolving ecology. This is not only in the material life of the work itself –Fisher’s beard growth, Borland’s trees – but in art’s ecological networks, its connections, meanings, sensations, interpretations and transformations. It is a flow of art that distinguishes it from a simple tracing, and permits the penetration of the tree from multiple entry points and, therefore, multiple exit points or lines of flight – leaking, rupturing, re-emerging, re-connecting (3). Anatomical knowledge is not imperviously sealed, but entails and invites rigorous and novel assaults on its hierarchical structures, roots and branches. Anatomical display supports it with a precarious binding of its ecology. But it is the rhizomic mapping of art’s imagination that not only penetrates the tree, but also offers a line of escape.


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