In 2008 I worked with radiographers at The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in the production of a computed axial tomographic scan of a clarinet. I was interested in how the clarinet bears many analogies with the human body. The clarinet’s tubular structure (in terms of surface connectivity) is similar to the topology of the body.  It is composed of articulated components, which function in a similar way to human limbs.  Blowing air through an instrument extends our organic structure into a prosthetic manifestation of sound. The reed, which gives the instrument a sound, vibrates in a similar manner to the larynx or voice-box in the human throat. Focusing on the function and composition of the instrument raises questions of a teleological nature. The instrument is understood as a sonic, bio-mechanical extension of the human body, to which the musician hopes to achieve a desired effect on the audience. The ultimate purpose of the clarinet - as an extension of the body - is evidenced in its isomorphic structures, and ultimately in its function as a musical instrument.

MRI, Tomography, contemporary art, Ireland, printmaking, lambdachrome
MRI, Tomography, digital Art, Ireland, printmaking, lambdachrome

 The visual passage through solid matter is enabled with diagnostic scanning, which effortlessly and non-invasively penetrates solid material, entering into and passing through tissue without disturbing its composition - leaving no trace of its passage. Tomography is a generic term for scanning technologies that enable seeing into solids in a sequence of image slices, including MRI, computed axial tomography (CAT), and positron emission tomography (PET). While these technologies were developed for specific medical functions, artists have recognized the huge ontological potential of seeing inside a physical body or object.  As Ron Burnett points out in How Images Think: ‘if the arts and sciences share anything at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is the legacy of making a great deal of what has been invisible about the world and the way people live in it, visible … definitions of reality have undergone a sea of change.’ (Burnett, 2004, p. 58). In its ability to see material as data, tomography blurs the boundaries between virtual and actual realities.

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