The Digital Anatomical Theater is a series of photographic images on silk and 360-degree photographs shown on a Virtual Reality headset. The series explores medical spaces from historical to contemporary times. The photographs were shot in anatomical and operating theaters in Europe, former insane asylums, and in present-day digital anatomical theaters— spaces where visualization technologies are used to view the body such as MRI machines. Early scientific practices for representing the body were conducted in Renaissance anatomical and operating theaters, places where public dissections and operations were performed in order to study the body. I wanted to better understand how history reverberates through medical practices and spaces, and make use of the immersive experience that happens through the physical perimeter change and sensory limitation that occurs when using VR. The medical industry is also one of the top consumers of VR technology, using it for a variety of things, including mitigation of stress before a procedure, and helping paraplegics gain muscle control.
Bologna Anatomical Theater, Pigment Print on Silk, 2019
London Operating Theater, Pigment Print on Silk, 2019
Digital Anatomical Theater, Photographic Prints on Silk and 360-Degree Photographs viewed through a VR device, 2019
Digital Anatomical Theater, Images Courtesy of the Galleries of Contemporary Art, Colorado Springs Colorado
While one company is developing a VR application that allows individuals to “experience” what it feels like to be disabled, others are developing applications that permit individuals with varied abilities to virtually tour spaces that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. I will share examples of ways that photographers are using VR technologies, including my own experiments and failures, and share the kinds of questions that researchers and artists are grappling with as they examine the future of VR. I will also have devices available for the audience to view the work from the Digital Anatomical Theater themselves.
Abbey Hepner will present her work at this year's Yuma Art Symposium
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