Visits: Identity & Technology

Stefan514593 - Parallel Project - sketchbook

Wellcome Collection

After suggestions by my tutor and others I visited the Wellcome Trust Collection. The Wellcome Trust has the ambition to bring science, health and thriving life together through embracing new and creative ideas. 

For me there were two aspects to that visit:

  1. Seeing the collection and get possibly new viewpoints on medical imaging and arts that could inform my personal project
  2. Engaging with the people to see how I could benefit from an exchange of ideas. 

The second point kept still open as I have to undergo a written request (ongoing). On the first point I got a few ideas of creative transcriptions of medical imaging techniques.

Artist works:

  • Michael Hopkins (2004) Untitled: He applied white ink on slate to freely and more gestural with eraser and stiff bristle brushes to make suggestive abstract works , appropriating x-ray visuals of the human body (bones structure)
  • Annie Cattrell (2001-03) SenseShe uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)technique to visualize human five senses (touch, smell, taste, hearing and seeing). The generated scans of active brain zones were converted into three-dimensional  structures of amber resin using rapid-phototyping process. 
  • Chris Drury (2003) Landscape of the Heart: A layered and interwoven work consisting of ECG patterns and a mountain landscape, linking heart rate increase when one climbs the mountain. The artist stated ‘to make mind and visual connections’ between microcosm and macrocosm. 

I was surprised that I could find these works. For me perhaps too literal takes and visualization of the process. Not sure it is the way I want to move forward. Nevertheless, it made me aware of how sculptural elements, layering (Drury) and isolation (Cattrell) could be used to explore invisible things.

In context of medical imaging, I was excited to see OCA student Beverly Duckworth’s work ‘Capsula’ at SHOWCASE. Understanding that her work has been selected for the May 2018 conference ‘Becoming Image: Medicine and the Algorithmic Gaze.’ by Digital insides, supported by Wellcome and UCL, made it even more fascinating. Unfortunately, not having much time to talk with Bev, I am starting to see a wider picture of medical imaging in arts and some key artists, institutions etc.  What I saw from the various works was that nearly all of them are digital lens based or using primary medical imagery as such for the work. Wondering how painting could leverage or providing a different viewpoint on this. It might seem a stretch to move from medical techniques to painting or video, though both have in common the visualization effect and a deferred meaning. What the eye sees (paint or curves or images) is not what one stays at, it goes deeper, a process of reflection and encoding of signs is happening.

I find the idea of layering technical patterns with gestural patterns an interesting idea. Something that I can relate to the works of Jacqueline Humphries and Jillian Mayer.

Both encounters were rather a coincidence than a planned trip. Browsing the current map I was intrigued by how both artist explore sense of identity technology, wondering whether I could get some further inspirations for my personal project. 

Sketching ideas for PP - inspired by exhibition visits and talks

Fig. 1: Sketching ideas for PP – inspired by exhibition visits and talks



Jacqueline Humphries 

At Modern Art Gallery Vyner Street (02 Oct – 10 Nov 2018)

All new large scale paintings from 2018. Entering the newly ‘White Cube’ (reconstructed one year ago) I could smell the oil paint, kept my attention and made me aware why I love oil paintings (versus rather sterile acrylic paint when finished and installed). 

Humphries (b. 1960) is an accomplished abstract painter and the new works on display is her process driven encounter with her older paintings seen through a layer of digital information technique. She converted the visual scanned information into ASCII strings, made from these strings larger sheets of laser cut stencils, and pushed through these holes thick paint manually onto the canvas surface. A process form analogue through digital towards analogue again. With subsequent erasing those paint partly and with added gestural strokes, she created mesmerizing works, decontextualized (nearly void) and with an emphasis on an aesthetic outcome. The joined text states that

‚the emotive content contains traces of memory and ghosts in the process of their translation‘ – Modern Art Gallery

I like the idea of memory and fascimiles, layers of time and space developing into something new. Her stencil approach resonates with some of my explorations with cut-outs and overpainting, exploring shapes and edges.

It is a very tactile approach to code, encoded information. Something that I like compared to some more literal translations of coded (medical) date as seen at Wellcome Collection (see above). A possible approach to my more embodied encounter with MRI imagery.


Jillian Mayer

At Annka Kultys Gallery (24 Oct – 24 Nov 2018)

Quite a shift to see Mayer’s work. All video art from the filmmaker who co-runs the company Borscht and openly publishes on YouTube. Fluent with media and exploring liminal experiences in a digital age impacting our sense of identity. Instructional videos how to disguise one’s face to move undetected in public spaces (considering the presence of facial detectors), how facial measure could tell more about oneself than in would expect, and a musical performance as a work between video, film, and musical. At times with a dystopian sense reminding me of the film ‘Matrix’. 

I looked up the artist website and found her painterly sculptures ‘Slumpies’, useable sculptures that either enforce or enable a posture typical for some cultural habits of interaction with smartphones, or making selfies. Fascinating for me to see the ‘rawness’ of the sculptures that I could related to the ‘rawness’ of the objects in my Object-Box. An appearance my tutor was questioning. Mayer sees the ‘lack of conscientious design as an ad hoc solution made from simple materials in direct contradiction to the sleek forms and designs, and the marketing culture, that defines our intimate dependence on technology.’ (Artist website at:

I was thrilled to have an engaging talk with the gallery owner. The gallery was upstairs above a shop, one open room with a desk and three walls. She even asked for my IG profile -what by itself was a ‘shocking’ moment for me after the private view at SHOWCASE – totally unexpected. But after visiting another small gallery in the same neighborhood made me aware of the importance of social media interaction with newer galleries. Something more traditional galleries, e.g. Marlborough Gallery, would be less engaged with. For me, to think how and what I want to use which channel for.


Technology, eg medical imaging techniques, could be either translated literally through drawing and painting (eg Hopkins, Cattrell), or layered with paint as fragments and memory (eg Drury, Humphries) or just using primary imagery for new ways of seeing at things, alongside an aesthetic appeal of the resulting work (e.g Duckworth). Making the invisible visible relating to how it impacts our self image (Mayer) is showing through her layered video projects. 

I take away the idea of layering of coded information with gestural marks, technology created patterns as a layer in between. 

After my visit to London and some further visual encounters with various works and artists, I sense a better understanding on how things might move forward. I sketched a few ideas on one of my many tube rides and am exciting to play around with some of them when back in my studio. 

I will definitely reach out to more people (e.g Liz Orton from Digital Insides, or Wellcome) to see how this could evolve. But first to make some practical stuff – as I feel that I need to phrase somehow my scope before talking with people who could possibly support me.


  • Duckworth, B. (2018) [Email sent to Stefan Schaffeld, 29 Oct 2018]


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