Whose Scalpel

Yen Tzu Chang

Taiwanese media artist Yen Tzu Chang presents Whose Scalpel - a sound performance with visual links from the repertoire of medical imaging techniques, creating a link between art and science. The project is based on the fundamental question of the compatibility of basic health care and the urge for general procedurally optimized implementation of complicated interventions in the human organism.

Chang visualizes an utopian scenario, which imagines people subjecting themselves to the precision of the machines and only be left to assist in surgical interventions. These theories are not just an untenable fantasy, but to some extend already proven by an intense research in this particular field of medicine: the stimulating effects of sound on patients is already applied and the mechanical support of surgeons by precise motor equipment has been tested and successfully confirmed. Artificial intelligence will be able to allow machines to learn to adopt even the most complicated processes, such as the insertion of a coronary artery bypass.

In Whose Scalpel, the artist works with a replica of her own heart, which was captured by an MRI scan, proportionally enlarged and printed with a 3D printer. For the performative part of the work, Chang networks audio cables to bridge circuits on the surface of the exemplified artificial heart, adapting the process of a medical intervention. The electronically generated intonation and the visual projection, which consists of medical recordings and live images synchronously recorded by a webcam, determine the choreography. The digital framework directly initiates the action of the assisting person, embodied by the artist.

The work addresses the existential question of whether and to what extend we are prepared to transfer processes (especially in the medical field) to machines whose capabilities objectively transcend those of the human species, and in reverse, whether we will subsequently still trust in human nature.