In 1986 I was in my second year at art school when the British photographer, Jo Spence, published the book “Putting myself in the picture”. Spence’s critical documentary practice was a feminist critique of representation and it was an inspiration. In one of the final images in this book she captions one of her photographs with “Someday my prints will come”. For me, maybe as for Spence, art is the prince on the white charger.
I wait for delivery of 3D prints, much as she waited for her silver-based photographs to arrive. When I saw this timelapse of one of the sections my Neuro Memento Mori piece being printed, I immediately thought of Spence, her witty “Someday my prints will come” and her series ‘The Final Project’, made with her long term collaborator, Terry Dennett.
Image copyright Jo Spence and Terry Dennett. Final Project (death rituals and return to nature series), 1991-92
In the last two years of her life, 1991-1992, she made these memento mori works as she thought about her death. One photograph in particular strikes me. The face is a mask with empty eyes, a double exposure that seems to catch a moment of slippage, where the face pitches to one side, revealing the skull beneath. The skull. Always there, the hidden scaffold for our lively expression that remains after our eyes empty and our flesh rots.
Next week Art Basel Hong Kong begins. A good time to “Remember You Must Die” to think about the transience of life and art, its futility. To remember, and celebrate, art’s pointlessness and the inevitable but useless joy of anticipation.
Someday my dark prince/prints of death will come.
Neuroimages produced during our MRI experiments were processed to produce 3D datasets of my brain. These 3D models, were then used to make a 3D printed sculptural objects. The first object we printed was of the grey matter of the artist’s brain. It felt strange to hold a 3D print of my own brain in my hand.
The first neuro memento mori self portrait we created combines the structural MRI of my brain with the structural 3D scans of my face, head and neck. This piece does not show brain activity but is formally similar to memento mori and vanitas works. However, it takes memento mori a step further by not only showing the skull but cutting into the skull to show the artist’s brain. The object is life-sized. It is displayed at the new Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus, Denmark as part of the ethnographic exhibition, ‘The Life of the Dead’ which runs 2014-2018.
I am currently producing live video and computer animations to be projection-mapped onto the 3D printed sculpture. The projection of moving images onto the sculpture animates the 3D object and blends images of the living (MRi data and live action video) with images that allude to the dead (like the skull model). This bringing together of images or symbols of life/the living and death/the dead is typical of memento mori, but in this project it is achieved using contemporary imaging technologies. Some of the animations are derived from the fMRI data showing brain activity whilst looking at memento mori images (see the still image of the video being projected onto the 3D print above).
3D scans of the artist’s head and face were combined with MRI data defining the brain, resulting in one digital 3D model shown above. The final model shows a dissected head, recombined with a 3D skull and brain model. The form of the final, life-sized portrait sculpture refers to the Wellcome Trust object, seen here.
Welcome to Jane Prophet’s project that explores brain activity during the contemplation of artworks and death.
The questions that underpin this project are:
Can contemporary neuroscience and new imaging technologies increase our understanding of consciousness?
When we look at memento mori artworks are we prompted to contemplate our own mortality?
What parts of the brain are active when we look at these artworks?
What parts of the brain are active when we meditate on death?
Is there any similarity in brain function in these two instances?