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Solid States: Image/Object in the Age of 3D Printing

Marilène Oliver

Laser etched graphite on paper.  Images are based on ray cast renderings of MR scan data in virtual reality and 3D rendered surfaces extracted from the scan data.

Installation (made from same MR scan data of previous images): Lasercut coroplast sculptures, virtual reality and laser light.  Screen capture of VR experience: Deep Connection -

Lasercut coroplast sculptures, virtual reality and laser light.  Screen capture of VR experience: Space Invaders -

Click on an image to enlarge

When the viewer enters the VR artwork Deep Connection, they see a scanned body lying prone in mid-air. The viewer can walk around the body and inspect it, lie underneath and walk through it. The user can dive inside and see its inner workings, its lungs, spine, brain. The user can take hold of the figure’s outstretched hand: holding the hand triggers a 4D dataset, making the heart beat and lungs breathe. When the user lets go of the hand, the heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing. Deep Connection creates a scenario where an embodied human becomes the companion for a virtual body and where the physical body interfaces with the virtual to animate it. The VR experience is part of a sculptural installation created using the same MR data, invoking Heidegger’s concept of a ‘standing reserve,’ where humans are destined to be both a resource for and enablers of technology. The installation comprises 3 bodies into which the VR hardware is embedded. The sensors are embedded in the chest of the outer two figures, and the inner figure holds the headset, controller and guards the workstation. Projected onto the figures is a green laser light crosshair, suggesting the bodies to be a targeted location. The sculptures are made of laser cut coroplast.


On Fire, Obscene Echo and Alone Again are three large works on paper made by laser engraving images captured of medical scan data in virtual reality, that developed directly from the installation and VR works Deep Connection and Space Invaders. The choice of lasering into graphite is intentional for it recalls a dense dark cloud, similar to the aesthetic of Space Invaders where the MR noise created by the heart

beat and breath movement create the illusion of dust in the VR space. On Fire and Alone Again have two versions of my scanned body either face to face or layered on top of each other, commenting upon isolation and loneliness brought about by digitization of human relationships. In Obscene Echo, Melanix (an anonymised scan dataset I regularly work with) is also in the huddled group, allowing us to see how the CT mesh of Melanix is much more rigid and ordered than my noisy and organic MRI data.

Marilène Oliver works at a crossroads between new digital technologies, traditional print and sculpture, her finished objects bridging the virtual and the real worlds. Oliver uses various scanning technologies, such as MRI and CT to reclaim the interior of the body and create art works that allow us to contemplate our increasingly digitised selves. Her current focus is on the use of medical scan data in virtual reality. Marilène Oliver is an assistant professor of printmaking and media arts at the University of Alberta,



Oliver studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art (London, UK) where she

obtained an MPhil with the research project ‘Flesh to Pixel, Flesh to Voxel, Flesh to XYZ’. Oliver has exhibited internationally in both private and public galleries including the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Wellcome Trust (UK), MassMoCA, Knoxville Museum of Art (USA) Frissarias Museum (Greece), Casino Luxembourg (Luxembourg), Fundació Sorigué (Spain) and The Glenbow Museum (Canada). Her work is held in several private collections around the world as well as a number of public collections such as The Wellcome Trust, Victoria and Albert Museum and Knoxville Museum of Art. In 2019 Oliver led and curated the exhibition  Dyscorpia: Future Intersections of the Body and Technology . Oliver is also the host of LASERAlberta, a public series of art and science events, leads the interdisciplinary research project Know Thyself as a Virtual Reality and the Multi-Dimensional Digital Print research project.

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