Guest post: Me, myself and MRI
What makes us all unique? Can you tell what job someone does just by looking at a picture of their brain? Can a brain scan be a portrait? Me, Myself and MRI is a chance to explore these questions and lots more while exploring the idea of identity, writes Kirsty Halliday.
It all started back in Autumn 2006 when sound artist Damian Murphy had an MRI brain scan as part of a colleague’s research project. Around the same time, we saw Marc Quinn’s DNA portrait of Sir John Sulston as part of an exhibition by the National Portrait Gallery. Looking at the portrait and the images from Damian’s scan, we got to thinking about alternative forms of portraiture and the use of biomedical data in artworks and the crossovers and links between science and art.
Me, Myself and MRI began in December 2007 with an 18-month education project, working with KS3 pupils from Archbishop Holgate’s School in York to explore topics including MRI technology (with two site visits to York Neuroimaging Centre), ethics in science and art, the history of portraiture, individuality (and what makes us all unique) and creative digital media, including video, audio, photography and interactive technology. The aim was to create a touring portraiture exhibition featuring interactive digital portraits that used MRI brain scan data, video, audio and photographs.
The students drove the development of the final exhibition. They selected the six individuals whose portraits feature in the exhibition, devised the interview questions that were used for the audio and video portraits, created the briefs for the project artists, tested prototypes and steered the design of the exhibition publicity and signage.
The exhibition launched in Spring 2009, with portraits of six people from different walks of life – a TV presenter, a science teacher, a writer, a nurse, a kickboxing champion and a chaplain. It was fantastic to see the artworks out in the public domain and watch how people interacted with them. Some folk seem to prefer standing in the middle of the room, listening to the hubbub of conversation between the portraits and the background sounds of the MRI machine, others like to spend time with each individual portrait, hearing them talk about their heroes, their aspirations and their memories. We invited visitors to tell us what was in their brain that day. The responses showed that the thoughts and ideas that occupy our minds are as varied and unique to us as individuals as our physical appearance is.
A new website has been created to document the project and the exhibition, offer lesson plans and other educational resources for all of the topics we covered and provide information on the artworks to support future touring. We hope that the site offers an insight into the project and the ideas we explored as well as providing inspiration and ideas to support people in developing their own creative projects. Take a look and let us know what you think… www.memyselfandmri.org
Kirsty Halliday, Project Manager, Me, Myself and MRI
Me, Myself and MRI is part-funded by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust.