Re-corporealising MRI Data
: A Practice-based Investigation through Art and Science

  • Jennifer Aurelie Crouch

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Corporeal matter as perceived by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) straddles definitions of substance, organism, subject and object. MRI interacts with the body through nuclear magnetic resonance and electrodynamics, bringing us into contact with the body’s multiple ontologies: person, patient, body, organism, cellular, molecular, atomic and subatomic. This thesis combines artistic processes and written analysis as a methodology for investigating MRI to develop a practice that explores how our medical, technologically enframed subjectivity is formed and felt. Charting the situated, relational, embodied and embedded nature of the body as perceived and treated through MRI, my research offers a novel approach to MRI-related art-science practices including insights into novel ways to create art within the laboratory context. By interacting with the physics that makes MRI possible I create art objects as scientific devices offering a materials-led contribution to the realm of aesthetic visualisation of MRI and the body. The philosophical and practical approaches detailed in my thesis increase my sensitivity to what it means to be a body as defined by MRI, expanding my capacity to come to terms with my personal experiences of cancer and medical treatment.
My research begins with MRI and uses my scientific background and experience of medical treatment for cancer as an embodied exploration of MRI. Being largely isolated from how computational technologies work, there is an increasing incentive to make their internal processes visible. In this research, the application of feminist new materialisms, Jane Bennett’s ‘vital materialism’, and making and acting as an assemblage help me to develop embodied approaches that expose how MRI data is organised and codified. My sculptural, woven, drawn and painted practices draw on the mathematical and physical processes of MRI. Sculptural ‘phantoms’ investigate the interface between body and machine. These semi-figurative constructs are informed by Karen Barad’s diffractive analysis, material intra-action and a creaturely approach to working with matter. I develop a weaving practice as an embodied method to investigate how analogue signals in MRI are transformed into a digital biomedical image. My woven works are a non-pictorial deconstructive reconfiguration of mathematical phenomena in signal analysis that aim to open the ‘black box’ of MRI technology. The creative acts of drawing, illustration and the creation of diagrams and paintings that chart the entanglements and constellational nature of my artistic practice with MRI help me to map the relationality of the different aspects of my practice.
Date of Award5 Oct 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMarius Kwint (Supervisor), Elaine Igoe (Supervisor) & Branislav Vuksanovic (Supervisor)

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