hand plays… (text)

The first X-ray photography ever made was a picture of Mrs. Röntgen’s hand. There is an enduring contradiction here: the hand clutches, touches, caresses, expresses, whereas radiography is a screen separating the subject from his own body, allowing the doctor to take over. Moreover, X-rays show only a partial image of oneself. While it miraculously penetrates the body and reveals its anatomy or constituent parts, it also masks the vibrant complexity of the being. Radiography, however, can be identifed neither with the radiologist’s point of view, nor with the patient’s, because, first of all, it is a black mirror : an observation device, endowed with a capacity to produce dissimilarity and to explore, accordingly, the bounds of vision and observation.
Accordingly, I established connexions between radiography and its history, as well as with the history of the other arts involved in its invention (photography, motion picture, stage arts etc.) in order to stretch a different vision of this medium. Therefore we should not be talking of radiography or of photo digital here, but rather of painting, sculpture, magic… By so doing, I displayed what really gives beings their opacity, in other words what X rays do not usually keep a record of : shadow, reflection, print or skin… and also our manias and the expressive significance of gestures. And such things cannot be done without revealing a few well-known secrets !
Eventually, each of these radiographies offered me the possibility to feed this medium with aesthetic, historical and poetic concerns and also to think both about science and its representations of the world. Scientific imagery arouses our society’s hopes, fantasies and frustrations and the reason for this is that it confront us both to cutting-edge technology and to our own fragility and limits. In spite of its age, radiography remains, even in these digital times of ours, the stage of our current symptoms and beliefs. We hear repeatedly that augmented reality can only be achieved through technoscience, but reality is always augmented, at least by everyone’s desires. It occured to me that there is an urgent need to inhabit these images again, to see them in a larger cultural and artistic perspective, especially because, at the present time, technoscientific imagery fosters both the current conformism and the viewer’s ego.

Other texts:
Philippe Bassnagel: the view of radiologist
François Dagognet: pour nous l’artiste…
Christian Gattinoni: hands as recovered gift
David Le Breton: radiography as exorcism
Michel Le Du: examined transparency
Philippe Liverneaux: le point de vue du chirurgien
Jean-François Robic and Marc Ferrante: interview
Technical documentation exhibition Hand plays

L’usage de la radiographie sur le corps humain à des fins non médicales est interdit, article L1333-11 du code de santé publique, mention ASN