Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Anker: Science-phobic/Image-phobic/Content-phobic Somas 2

From: Suzanne Anker
Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2007 16:45:18 -0500

Pictures thought to be grotesque usually contain disturbingly graphic body anomalies, both congenital and received. Sometimes violently criminal and other times the result of nature’s endless bank of variegated form, these images indelibly mark our sense of mortality. Images of death and disease, body parts and transplants, surgical procedures and even birthing processes, present the body as an envelope of painful eruption. To what extent have these uncomfortable images been erased from public consciousness? Or, on the hand as the late Susan Sontag professed, images of the body in pain have replaced pornography as the new taboo.

Yet still, one cannot escape the expression of pathos in Max Aguilera-Hellweg’s “The Sacred Heart.” *In “The Sacred Heart" he tells us the following:“ Organ donors must die from brain death. In the final moment of life, if brain death occurs inside a hospital and loss of blood supply to the heart can be prevented, the organs can be kept alive by keeping the donor intubated and on a respirator. Timing is critical. A human heart is good for only four to six hours. A liver for eight to twenty-four. Kidney can be kept viable for as long as three full days.

Brain death certification is serious business and cannot be easily explained. It is difficult for the family of the potential donor to comprehend that their loved one is dead when they see the person breathing on a respirator. Specifically, it is hard to explain the difference between brain death and coma. Because of the incongruities, the sensitivities, the subtleties of this distinction, some states require certification of brain deaths by two separate physicians.

The last document of the thirty-seven year old woman’s medical record was a checklist of body parts, the inventory of organs to be donated for transplant or research, marked with an X, and signed at the bottom of the page by her husband, who had given his consent. I tried to imagine what kind of pain, what was the nature of the generosity he felt as he signed his name. But nothing could have been stranger than seeing the surgeon open up her chest, her heart still beating, her lungs taking oxygen, yet knowing she was dead.”

With the same intensity of purpose, Vladimir Mironov’s experimental research into bio-printing, is a pioneering foray into the problematics of regenerative medicine. Like the stuff of science fiction, Mironov’s images of architecturally rendered vascular systems are ripe icons for 21 st century medicine and more. **Add to the mix, his conversions of Epson printer hardware, which substitute ink with liquid cellular solution, and what results is a thinly “printed” tissue. What social values and aesthetic issues are embedded in these images? Somatic or conceptual responses?

* Max Aguilera-Hellweg
From the "Sacred Heart" Atlas /removal of plaque from the carotid artery, 1997
** Vladimir Mironov, Ph.d, M.D.
CAD blueprint of human heart, 2003-2007/ Medical University,Charleston, South Carolina

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