Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Scan-tastic look inside the brain
One of the long-running problems in English education has been the division between arts and sciences.
Professor David Rhodes, former boss of Bradford-based hi-tech electronics firm Filtronic plc, once told the T&A that Britain had too few scientists and far too many social scientists – sociologists, for example.
This week, an exhibition has opened at Bradford’s Impressions photographic gallery which, it is claimed, brings art and science together.
Me, Myself And MRI is an interactive display using photography, video, sound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) data to create a multi-layered audio/visual portrait of each of six individuals.
This is not a passive exhibition. How much you see and hear depends on how long you spend before each portrait. Invisible beams are triggered which release sights and sounds.
MRI scanning, of course, is normally used to diagnose medical problems. It is able to create images of the inside of the head including the brain in a way that is not part of conventional portraiture, either by camera, paintbrush or pencil.
The question arises, does the ability to see the brain in this way tell us any more about an individual as a person, in the way that art can and does?
A nurse, a chaplain, a kick-boxing champion, a playwright, a television journalist and a scientist each agreed to take part in the project.
They had their photograph taken, took part in audio-visual interviews and had an MRI brain scan. The resulting information was then transformed into a series of digital portraits unique to each of the people involved.
However, the brain scans presented a problem of principle, as one in ten usually reveal an unexpected feature or anomaly. All six participants had to consent to their GP being informed should anything like that arise. All members of the project had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
The interviews were based on nine questions, such as: Which event in the last century most influenced your life? Who would you most like to be (living or dead) and why? What made you agree to take part in this project?
Pupils from a York school, aged 13 and 14, took part in the project and studied the history of portraiture; how video, photography and sound can contribute to a picture of a person. They also discussed the rights and wrongs of using MRI images as part of an exhibition, and then they chose the six people.
James Evans, head of science at the school, explained the value of the project to the pupils concerned.
“To experience the ‘wow’ factor of science with inspirational people, to make links with many facets of the curriculum, to be engaged by science and express that through art, IT and media is priceless.”
Sarah Read, acting director at Impressions Gallery said: “This is a really innovative project that challenges perceptions of photography and portraiture. It’s a great way for young people to explore identity. We are delighted to support it.”
The show itself was put together as a piece of installation art by professionals in their respective fields.
“The young people spent an afternoon with each of six members of Geodisic Arts, a Yorkshire collective of artists. They created the brief for the artists to work to. The artists went away and followed that brief,” said project manager Kirstie Halliday.
“When you come into the exhibition, you see six brains on a screen spinning round. You walk in front of a beam and that triggers audio/visual images. The amount of information you get depends on how much time you spend in front of each portrait.”
Me, Myself And MRI is supported by, among others, the Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, the National Science Learning Centre and Impressions Gallery.
The aim of the gallery, which moved to Bradford from York and opened in August, 2007, is to promote contemporary photography that gets people looking, thinking and talking.
Me, Myself And MRI is on at Bradford’s Impressions Gallery until May 9. Admission is free. Impressions is open Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 6pm, and Thursdays to 8pm, and noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday. It will be closed on Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.