Live performance and Video installation.
Phantom Limb (2023) is a project exploring the enigmatic and poetic relationship between a human being and the black box that is their interior through the use of a medical ultrasound machine. Amos Peled has been developing methods to perform audio-visual manipulations which transform the ultrasound machine into an instrument that illuminates the inside of the body and expands the space of the artistic act into the organs, under the skin. The work investigates conceptions such as the distance of the human body from the idea of oneself, the hierarchical relationship between the inside and the outside, pain as a poetic message, and the lack of internal symmetry.
Phantom Limb is commissioned by iii in collaboration with Rewire, Amare and Tetem.
Artistic and production assistant: Andrejs Poikans
Software development and Artistic assistant: Daniel Treystman
Sound: Liza Kuzyakova, Amos Peled, and Andrejs Poikans
By revisiting personal memories of time spent in the seeming stillness of healthcare centres, the artist positions these experiences in a mediated imaginary space of internal images and sounds of the body. Phantom Limb takes the shape of a live audio-visual performance and video installation.
A short documentary about the project Videography by Tanja Busking
A Trailer for the performance
Phantom Limb project began with purchasing an outdated SIEMENS ACUSON SEQUOIA 215 ultrasound machine [Fig.1]. This machine can be seen both in the performance rendition of the artwork as well as in the video installation format. It is a medical technology most commonly used as a diagnostic tool that allows seeing through the skin, into the soft tissues of the human body.
Ultrasound imaging is done by emitting high-frequency sound waves (in the given case 5 to 15 MHz) through a phased array transducer that receives back the signal and measures the associated time delay, as well as the velocity of the reflected sound waves. A calculation and translation process turns the sound signal into a moving image in real-time. Curiously, the first medical applications of ultrasound did not produce visualisation as an outcome. A signal, which was received as an echo from the human body was first translated into sound, thus training to listen was a skill to acquire by many doctors working in the field of sonography2. For these reasons, an audio output is still included in current medical ultrasound devices.
In other fields of research, before its use as a diagnostic tool in medicine, ultrasound was proposed as a potential approach for monitoring submarine traffic during WWI Russia. The technology was never fully implemented, but it had a crucial role in refining the later designs, which involved magnetic and piezoelectric phenomena. The idea of illuminating depths of unreachable spaces and distances by the means of sound has led to the invention of sonar technology in the marine sciences. In contrast, to illustrate the vast diversity of scales at which such phenomena occur, it is interesting to note that the first medical ultrasound procedures were conducted in baths filled with water. Furthermore, the living human body cannot exist without liquidity, this is a crucial feature for ultrasound inspections to be effective. In this sense the technology of ultrasound imaging belongs to the liquid mediums of sound that are alien to our daily perception of sound phenomena.
[Fig.1] SIEMENS ACUSON SEQUOIA 215 picture by Sean Charlton White
To extend the possibilities of the medium, a system was built to interface the ultrasound machine with an external computer for sound processing and image recognition purposes. This was achieved by developing a MAX for LIVE system together with Daniel Treystman, which allows making mappings between images produced by the machine and parameters for sound production and processing. The sound design was done in collaboration with Liza Kuzyakova, who sampled and recomposed sounds produced by the ultrasound machine. Technical and conceptual development was done in close engagement with multi-disciplinary artist Andrejs Poikāns.
As a part of the residency program in iii, during the months of December 2022 and January 2023 Amos Peled collaborated with the aforementioned artists to create a performance and video installation work with a poetic focus on the imagined distance between the body and oneself. In the process of developing the current version of the work, the artist engaged with professionals from fields of ultrasound, medical diagnostics, philosophy of technology, visualisation of medical information, and sound design. These consultations and encounters were made possible by the support of TETEM in the city of Enschede.
1Opposed to X-ray, a technology that precedes ultrasound imaging, ultrasound is most effective in visualising muscles, tendons, and internal organs rather than bone structure.
2A similar history of listening practices in the medical field can be found in the use of stethoscope, which pioneered non-invasive explorations of internal human anatomy.
PHANTOM LIMB - LIVE - at Proximity Music: Visceral Acts REWIRE 2023
picture by Pieter Kers
picture by Sean Charlton White
In the installation component of Phantom Limb , sound and videos that are recorded from inside the body are the visual and sonic elements that represent an encounter between a doctor and a patient. The installation component deals with the intimate relationship between doctor and patient and how they are represented through a medical database.
picture by Sean Charlton White
The video work from the installation, presented inside the machine
picture by Pieter Kers
Besides the performance and the installation, a booklet accompanies the work. It is based on documentation of the procedure of the development of the work and an overview of the work including research sources from medicinal literature and electronic information. This element of the work can be exhibited to the public as a booklet, website or as infographics in the exhibition space.
Design and print by Emma Hopche and Amos Peled
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