Anatomia

A few years ago, I created a work out of one of my favorite viewing material, scientific visualizations, and specifically anatomical drawings, based upon the drawings of Dr. Henry Gray. This was a time long before Second Life, and yet my ambition was to create a 3 dimensional navigable environment, somewhat along the lines of a scientific display in a museum space. (Although I hate museums as a rule, when it comes to Science Museums I do make a huge exception). However, given the complete lack of coding skills, which in that time were sine qua non in the creation of immersible virtual 3D spaces, I had to resort to creating some very involved settings in 3D Studio Max, which I then rendered in Bryce and subsequently placed in a flash interface. The somewhat sad result, given what it was that I originally had in mind, can still be viewed on my website, as well as some photos on Flickr:

I have now decided to build Anatomia in Second Life – however with a twist: An avatar to traverse the environment. While I thoroughly detest the very idea of museums, there is one notable exception: Science Museums. So, I want to build as a Museum of sorts for this one. A very fancy, state of the art “science” museum. All glitz and glitter and shiny surfaces. Those I love and can literally spend weeks in. Why? What is the reassurance, the feel-good factor here? And why do I especially want to create a science museum-like exhibition environment for anatomical drawings?

So, my take on all of this can now be visited by teleporting from here:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Syncretia/112/87/141

What happens when we look at anatomical drawings of the type which Dr. Gray compiled all those many years ago? Aren’t they projecting our very innards outwardly? With the implication of immortality embedded into the very experience? While our bodies are essentially convoluted labyrinths filled with all kinds of fluids which suffer pain; Gray’s anatomical drawings are reassuring in that suddenly the whole gooey mess starts making sense, is elevated to the clean precision of a perfectly working scientific diagram. No longer human, no longer smelly. What seems to be implied in Gray’s anatomy is that this imperfect mess which we walk around with can be a perfect machine, incapable of malfunction, incapable of decay…

I have tried to deliberately make the dweller of the exhibit un-clean… Not the pristine, sharp black and white image assembly, with the odd spot of clean bright color here and there, but something mussed up with organic textures, layered and superimposed with elements that seem confusing and out of sync. The avatar of Anatomia is quite fragile: This is not a perfect, unbreakable machine, a thing rendered to help us gain insight into the workings of a superlative system. But rather a black and yellow mass – the colors of when things go bad in our bodies. Not the red of living blood but the low saturation of decay.

anatomia-portrait02

anatomia-portrait01

She is not all human either: I have tried to weave the human elements, the drawings and the 3 dimensional bones created by Arcadia Morales, into shapes which would be reminiscent of botanical growth, sprouting from her shoulders and her knee. And then I have also used quite a few horns, these adorn her head and circle her ankle and her midriff. Horns belong to the devil and I want her to be endowed with the attributes of the demonic. I do not want this visitor to an exhibition of anatomical drawings to have illusions of grandeur regarding her elevated status as a human, or indeed even an animal or mammal. I want her to be vulnerable, perishable, impure. I want her to gaze upon something other than her – in its cleanliness, its shiny surfaces, its clean bright lines, its mechanical perfection.

Since I wanted to capture the sense of pristine display technology of the type found in high caliber museum exhibits, I had rendered the original environments of Anatomia in Bryce, which gives a superb quality of rendering particularly where reflective surfaces are concerned. It is of course impossible to capture this in Second Life under current rendering conditions. Thus, I have recycled these renders into the environment in Second Life. I will however attempt to add to these and create a faux-reflective platform achieved through the usage of mirrored prims.

What I aim for is to create a sense of split, of divison, of distantiation between the visitor, clothed in the avatar described above and provided at the installation’s location and the surrounding in which he/she finds themselves. I do not know if we attain this sense of our own fragility, the messiness of our innards, the thin line between a working and a malfunctioning organic mechanism, the fluids (fresh as well as refuse) coursing through our system when we visit the places where such anatomical drawings are displayed in Real Life. My hunch is that our Real Life persona, clothed in its everyday attire, more often than not in the company of others, is held at bay, thus keeping the wolf of self-perception form our door; enabling us to hide behind the security of intellectual appreciation of the superb craft which is present in the anatomical drawings compiled and created by the likes of Dr. Henry Gray. The Anatomical Avatar will hopefully make us perceive the difference between our flesh and blood bodies and the schematic, precise depictions of an idealized mechanism…

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