A trans- and interdisciplinary conference at the University of Hamburg

12—14 November 2015

Body – Image – Time. Medical Imaging in Visual Culture Studies (Bildwissenschaft)

Medical Imaging is closely connected to concepts of time and ideas of the human body. Xray Radiography as well as Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging visualise the internal structures of the body in vivo. The snapshots arising from them represent the current patient condition – the present state from radiological view. However, during the image interpretation (German: Befundung) these are images of a past time, integrated in the concept of a (biological) lifetime which progresses steadily. In spite of the visualisation of a (physical) past the images serve for the judgement of a present situation (diagnosis) as well as a possible future (prognosis) of the visualised body.
The different levels of past, present and future influence the image content in a specific way. The medical experts deal with ‘signs of time’ in the images. On the one hand image phenomena are interpreted as residual of passed disease; besides, a judgement of the same for present or future of the respective body is a diagnostically difficult case. On the other hand the radiologists are confronted with so-called artifacts: An image artifact is a pattern or structure in the image caused by signal distortion. It is, for example, related to the patient’s body movements like respiration or blood flow and unavoidable because of the liveliness of the body. The signs of the past of the body as well as its present liveliness cause problems to the radiological image interpretation and diagnosis.
The reflexion of these problems leads the discipline radiology, its apprenticeship and research to the image analysis and image handling. In the perspective of visual culture studies (Bildwissenschaft) it is noteworthy that radiologists approach the human body via the ‘image’ (the visualisation) and therefore never noticing the body without a mediated form. The radiological literature postulates taking time for the image interpretation or analysis (Befundung) – it almost seems that it demands to ‘linger’ in front of the images. To approaches of visual culture studies this claim is known1 as they consider the relations of producer, recipient and image. In an investigation of medical imaging these relations must be extended by the issue of ‘human bodies’.
In my talk the crux of medical imaging will be regarded by the presentation of X-ray Radiography and Computed Tomography: In radiological reflexions a separation of different temporalities of body and image as well as a sufficient consideration of the medium itself are missing.

Sarah Sandfort completed the master’s program of Art History and Philosophy at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) in 2009 and began her PhD thesis: “Bilder ohne Bildlichkeit? Computer- und Magnetresonanztomografie in der Radiologie”. From 2010 to 2013 she obtained a grant from the Cusanuswerk. Since 2009 she is working as freelancer for education and communication at the Museum Folkwang in Essen and since 2014 as assistance to the management at the Institute of Art History (RUB).

- exp. 2016: Konstruktion der Wirklichkeit. ‚Digitale Bilder‘ in der Radiologie, in: Fotogeschichte. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie - 2013: Bildverarbeitung in der Medizin. Ästhetische Aspekte in der Tomographie, in: Ernst Seidl et al. (Ed.): Wie Schönes Wissen schafft, Katalog, Museum der Universität Tübingen (MUT), Tübingen, p228–234. - 2012: with Richard Hoppe-Sailer, Rainer-M.E. Jacobi: Image – Body – Knowledge. An interdisciplinary and critical appraisal of images, in: Heiner Fangerau et al. (Ed.): Medical Imaging and Philosophy. Challenges, reflections and actions, Stuttgart, p152–161.

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