Wood, steel, mirror and Video.
Collaborator: Irene Carbonari (Sound)
In this installation I projected MRI images of my brain combined with fractals I generated inside a large kaleidoscope. My collaborator Irene Carbonari created a soundtrack based on the intense sounds that an MRI machine emits. The result is a kaleidoscopic journey into the brain, reminding the viewer of dreams or psychedelic experiences contrasting the objective scientific gaze that is usually applied to MRI Images.
The artwork was exhibited at Charité Berlin, a decommissioned power station in Steglitz, Berlin, a festival in a former mental institution, Neustrelitz and Night Embassy, a night club in Berlin.
Klack klack klack can you hear me?
I want to get inside you, move you around, get to the matter that makes up your mind. I want to measure you, slice you and color you. Can you see yourself? Can you see yourself seeing? Can you see your brain seeing yourself? What does it tell you? What do I tell you? Do I say anything at all?
Klack klack klack where are you? I want to read you like a book. Where is your attention, where is your consciousness? What are your memories?
Klack klack klack I am inside you.
If we cut open the skin of our skull, put a hole in our head and had a look at our brain, what would it tell us about ourselves? If we create more and more precise images of the inside of our head, do they in any way reflect our thoughts, feelings and desires? What do we really see when we look at pictures of our brain? Can they help us understanding this great mystery that we ourselves embody – consciousness? In what way is the anatomy of our brain a mirror of ourselves? Will we in the future be able to understand our mind by looking closely at the interactions of our neurons?
Why is it that we understand so much about the brain as a physical object and yet we understand so little about the mechanisms through which it produces subjective experiences?
Having undergone brain surgery, these questions have a very personal connection to me. My doctors did an amazing job at removing a dangerous knot of blood vessels from my brain without damaging it too much. But they were not able to tell me if this knot was responsible for abnormal mental experiences that I have had before. They were also not able to tell me for certain if there was a connection between my surgery and the epileptic seizures I experienced after. They give me medication that pharmaceutical researchers have found to be effective for some people – through a simple method of trial and error – not through an understanding of their molecular mechanisms. They cannot tell me for sure if this medication is effective or if I am taking drugs with strong side effects without any benefit.
In the past few years, I have had many MRI scans taken of my brain and these experiences were the starting point for this installation; the 20 minutes or so in the tube with its extremely strong magnetic field have always been a strange moment of introspection for me. Lying alone in a tube and looking through a mirror at the technicians outside, listening to the intense noises as the machine was creating the images of my brain. What do I know about myself? I wondered. And what can this machine help me to understand myself? I was amazed how the medical programs could show the anatomy of my brain in such a beautiful and colourful way. And yet, so little do we understand about my symptoms and their connections with my head’s anatomy.
In the installation I have created a somewhat similar experience to being inside the tube of an MRI machine and my collaborator Irene Carbonari has created a soundtrack based on the noises that these MRI machines make. In the installation, I dream what it might be like to really enter somebody else’s consciousness and surf through their memories and perceptions. My dream is so far removed from the medical reality today that the question rises: what of our understanding of the workings of the brain has to change before we can begin to unravel the mystery of our own consciousness?