Chasing Intensities

Work in progress for a book project Chasing Intensities about the idea of becoming image in medicine, and exploring the way in which medical technologies position and frame the body as an object. Read more


Images have been central to medicine for centuries – documenting, monitoring, and measuring the body.  Today, more than ever, to be a patient means to become an image. Today’s medical body is radiant with mathematical patterns, an entanglement of flesh and code.

Chasing Intensities explores the radiographic body, as a biological subject, and as a flow of data. Some of the images are visualisations of patients’ data, modeled using standard NHS radiology software. On screen this data is converted into 3D bodies that can be scaled and traversed as navigable images. For this book, the dimensional body has become surface, captured as 2D screen-grabs. These works are accompanied by re-photographed pictures that were originally published in Clark’s Positioning in Radiography, as well colloborative images made with patients.

Medical imaging technologies have no optical properties, and are not based on light. They are measurements of the body’s intensities, densities, flows, activities, sensitivities, functions and responses. Imaged, we become a matrix of mathematical code, a series of xyz points, a flickering volume of patterns. Once transformed into data, bodies undergo extensive algorithmic processing, becoming full of images in order to be visible to human diagnostic eyes. Imaging studies comprise hundreds of slices through the body, a stratigraphy of layers that can be restacked to create the body’s form and volume. These numeric bodies, without gravity or shadows, spin slowly in the deep cosmic black of the screen. The body becomes a space of calculative possibilities, produced, observed, analysed and potentially diagnosed by computers, which can operate at speeds and thresholds that exceed human sensory capabilities.

The work was made as part of a three-year collaboration with Professor Steve Halligan, with the UCL Medical Imaging Centre, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Further information is available from the project website

Credits for these works: Sarah Howe/Stephen Howe, Ida Levine, Alice Zoo, Olivia Smith, Anne Orton, Phil Martin, Eve.

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