Fritha Langerman
New Media at the Michaelis School of Fine Art
31-37 Orange Street University of Cape Town
Gardens. Cape Town
8002 South Africa
Telephone: work 27 21 480 7115
Mobile: + 27 82 7287837

Paper:  “Reproducing the Body: Assessing the Continued Contribution of Print Technology in Providing a Language for Biomedical Science”
Printmaking, in its development, has had a close and complicit history with medical imaging and the visualisation of the body. Based on Heidegger’s contention that technology (technics) gives primacy to the production of scientific knowledge and that only through instrumentation and secondary technologies can a relationship to the natural world be established, I shall argue that the technologies made available by printmaking enabled a vocabulary of imagining and understanding the body that may otherwise not have been realised. Although printmaking is no longer a critical technology in bio-medical visualisation, I shall argue that it has left as its legacy, a set of metaphorical tools that are implicit in the way in which the contemporary bio-medical body is understood.

Visualisation of the biomedical body looks to equivalence and difference in order to explain what cannot be efficiently described in words. This is evident throughout medical history, but has its most significant precursor in the Enlightenment that was a period obsessed with visual mechanisms that sought to make the invisible visible and with revealing the internal through dissection and magnification. Faith in the textual was supplanted by faith in observation as a means to formulate argument, yet the body was concurrently metaphorically apprehended as a book – a text to be read.

This paper shall trace the inextricable link between anatomisation and visualisation, referring to the graphic works of Dürer, Vesalius and Harvey amongst others. It shall also mention contemporary diagnostic imaging that establishes a dialogue between the somatic body as template and reproduction as image -- between plate and print. The reproduction of the image of the body has had a considerable influence on its perception in that meaning is held in representation rather than in the experiential body. The reproduction becomes a symbolic mirror -- a space of analogy and resemblance. The print becomes the interface at which the body is separated from its image; the space where matter becomes form and the somatic becomes a reflection and simulation of the real. This is particularly pertinent to iconography surrounding the genomic body, whereby data and code become the primary visual means of denoting the authentic body.

FRITHA LANGERMAN is a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town, teaching in the new media and printmedia sections of the Michaelis School of Fine Art. She trained at the University of Cape Town BAFA and MFA (Printmaking). Research interests include bookarts; the museum object; monuments and memorialization in South African history; scientific representation of the body and the display and ordering of information. This last interest has led to a number of exhibitions and the participation in genomic conferences. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and was the joint winner of the 3rd Cape Town Public Sculpture Commission in 2002. She has curated a number of exhibitions including “Lexicons and Labyrinths: the Iconography of the Genome” at the South African Museum and “Curiosity 175” at the University of Cape Town in 2004.