Her material is digitised bodies. During the time that she had been working with scan datasets (starting 2001) the impact and nature of digitisation in both the medical world and the quotidian has changed dramatically. As an artist her focus is to be particularly attuned to these changes and challenge them in her artworks. Fearing the loss of human embodied relationships she worked with datasets of bodies she knew and loved in order to preserve them. Her motivations were sentimental and nostalgic yet also ironic, playing with disillusioned promises that technology will endlessly improve and save us.
Presented below is a work by Marilène Oliver that reflects her interest in the body and digital technology.
FAMILY PORTRAIT – 2003 (sculpture)
Oliver worked with Paul Morgan at Nottingham University to acquire MRI scans of each of her family members. The scans were then translated and printed in bronze onto sheets of acrylic and presented as sculptural family portrait.
DERVISHES – 2007 (sculpture)
Sculptural installation made using anonymised CT dataset Melanix, found via Osirix medical imaging software. Oliver post processed the data to extract scans in a fan formation around different axis’.
MELANIX EXECUTE – 2011
Radiology allows the same data to be viewed between different density ranges: a scanned body can be displayed as all bone, all muscle, all skin as well as any level in between. The effect to the non-medical eye when the data is rendered as a 3D volume is both seductive and unnerving: at the slide of the mouse a body can be endlessly unfleshed and refleshed. The Kinect sensor (a motion and skeleton tracker) has allowed Marilène Oliver and creative coder Brendan Oliver, to develop the idea of a dance between scanned body and computer user into a life size, full body experience. For example: if the user moves their right arm, Melanix’s left arm will start to unflesh. The more they move their arm the more it will unflesh until it gets to bone.
DEEP CONNECTION – 2019
Using data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Marilène Oliver has created a virtual reality work: a digital body that the user can explore and connect with. Deep Connection explores our symbolic and emotional relationships with the human body, here both present and absent, floating and rooted in space. Is this the body of a loved one, or of a common ancestor of all humanity? Outside of time, it seems to offer us the possibility of recognizing ourselves. Starting from the principle that the way we perceive ourselves influences the way we understand ourselves, the artist’s material and immaterial visions of the body allow us to compare the ways in which real and virtual media affect us.