Last night I heard Anna Sadler give a talk about her recent work; the latest in the Penryn-based Independent School of Art series. Anna’s project, The Other Foreign Body: camera as probe, reminded me of some of the questions I’ve been asking about medical listening in my current research project. Her use of the camera in the piece Mouth Endoscopy provides a subtle visual counterpart to some of the work by Christof Migone that I’ve been looking at over the past two years. It also set me thinking about the relationship between techniques of medical imaging and techniques of medical listening, particularly as they might be co-opted for creative arts practice. I scribbled down a few notes:
The work I am reminded of most is Migone’s Evasion, or how to perform a tongue escape in public (2000). In this work, the performer is required to stick out his/her tongue as far as, and for as long as, possible, a move that Brandon LaBelle describes as delving into the ‘viscous materiality of the mouth.’ He argues that the work ‘exemplifies Migone’s practice: by uncovering an inside that suggests a different outside.’ As LaBelle points out, the work is intimately (tongue)tied to orality, implying the voice through exposing its fleshy, physical origins.
Mouth shapes. Correspondences between the shape of the lips and the position of the tongue. How are these understood by the eye when the ear has no part to play? Can the eye only understand as an implicit ear, the body unable to disassociate completely from memories of moving its own mouth, from the feeling of forming sound?
Mouth as opening to the interior of the body, something to be ‘looked into’. In sound works, the mouth and its sounds are always over-written with the potential for speech? Sadler’s work forestalls the possibility of diagnosis via the speech of the patient describing her symptoms and revealing both the interior of the body and the interiority of subjective experience. Thus while the materiality of the flesh is emphasised, it remains mute, impenetrable, and caught by the inability of the camera to reveal the body beyond the oral cavity. The lens reveals, but also silences.
There’s a lot to reflect on, and no doubt some of my thoughts and questions are naïve and poorly articulated, but this is definitely something I want to come back to. Perhaps I will do some proper research and try to get it all down in a longer essay.
In the meantime anyone interested in the relationship between medicine and the arts might want to check out Clod Ensemble’s Performing Medicine project.
Performing Medicine provides training to medical students and healthcare practitioners using the performing and visual arts (at undergraduate, postgraduate and at professional development level). We also curate events for the general public which engage with issues at the heart of medicine and healthcare.
As well as some wonderful performances, there are a number of workshops running during November and December. Topics include: Anatomy Through Movement, Anatomical Drawing, and The Poetic Body.