Monash University
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The optics of anatomy and light: a studio-based investigation of the construction of anatomical images

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posted on 2019-02-22, 03:44 authored by Sellars, Nina Victoria
As anatomical images of the human body increasingly circulate in the current visual and media culture, they belong not only within the domain of scientific enquiry but also exist in a creative field that helps to further define our human identity. Images that expose the inner materiality of the body are becoming naturalized in our everyday lives, as a result of the increased proliferation of medical imagery in various media. The context for this research project is provided by a contemporary investment in what we may term ‘the anatomical gaze’; one that reaches beyond the strictly defined discipline of anatomy. However, this work considers anatomical images at their inception to explore the role light plays in defining the anatomical gaze. Here, light is presented as an instigator rather than a passive illuminator of anatomical knowledge. The studio-based investigation poetically engages with some of the ways in which light impacts upon our negotiations and clarifies our imaginings of the human anatomical body. It also discusses how these experiences are articulated through images. The visual part of the research is comprised of a series of installations that hybridize old and new optical technologies, in ways that expose slippages and meeting points between different ways of visualizing anatomy. The magnification of sight and intensification of light enabled by various technological advancements have allowed us to see what previously remained invisible in the anatomical body. But, more importantly, these technical developments have also provided us with some new ways of conceptualizing these recently discovered bodily structures and their representations. For this reason anatomy is positioned in this research project as a topic that should not be, and in reality cannot be, insulated from cultural concerns. Indeed, anatomy underpins Western ideas of the body, identity and subjectivity, and it is important that it should remain open to critical investigation.


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Principal supervisor

Robert Nelson

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Department, School or Centre

Fine Art


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

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