These slides were once used as a teaching resource at Manchester School of Art. They are lantern slides, part of a small group of anatomical illustrations in the VRC (Visual Resource Centre). I am instantly drawn to them. There is something about the size and shape of them – the way they fit perfectly in my hands – and the weight of them, which is surprising and strangely reassuring. They are a wonderful fusion of object and image and a very magical way to look at the miniature drawings framed within the glass.
I choose these slides because they are connected to my research and practice. My work responds to the medical body, and the starting point for my drawings is often an anatomical illustration or a medical scan. As I hold the slides up to the light, I imagine other hands holding them, looking at them. What did they see, in a world before MRI and CT scans? How did they think about the relationship between art and science at a time when anatomical illustrations were an integral part of a fine art education?
I spend a lot of time looking at medical imagery on the computer monitor. Being here in the VRC, looking through boxes as John helps me to find the right slide, placing them on the light box, moving them around to compare and choose, is a very different experience to my computer based searches. These slides determine how you look; they assert their presence and materiality. They bring a different quality to my research. Digitising this collection would completely destroy that quality.
PhD Researcher (Northumbria University)
Associate Lecturer (Manchester Metropolitan University)