A Girl

Yesterday, after a blood donation appointment, I decided to do something non-strenuous, something I hadn’t done in a while. So I headed over to the Art Gallery of Alberta.

The place is in temporary digs in Enterprise Square (old Bay building, for you expat Edmontonians). Their new location is under construction, slated to open early in the new year. You can have a gander at the progress on this webcam.

The main reason I came was to catch the Ron Mueck exhibit. You’ve likely seen some of his ultra-real sculpture elsewhere on the web; I won’t bother to give any links to his stuff, there’s tons of pictures and video out there, just have a wee google and you’ll find it.

Two of Mueck’s pieces are currently on exhibit at the AGA: “A Girl” and “Old Woman in Bed”. The first is a newborn baby girl:

Very realistic – and very large. From head to toe, she’s about 10 feet long. The attention to detail is astonishing; tiny veins, moisture, smears of blood here and there from the birth, the fine hairs on the head. But it’s the size that’s so arresting.

Mueck’s other work also plays with scale – one of his largest sculptures so far is of a crouching boy, 5 metres tall! – and to me, it’s the sculptor’s equivalent of the closeup in film. The subject is so large that it’s inescapable.

One observation I found amusing and unnerving: the baby’s right eye is partially open, and if you stand in front of the head and look down, a deep blue eye like all newborns have, writ large, is staring up at you through a slitted lid – an ocean of defiance.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the other piece:

The platform is about 2 feet by 3 feet. The woman’s head would fit under your hand.

It’s the most moving art I’ve seen in quite some time. The skin is pale, parchment-thin, like most people near the end of life, utterly convincing. You almost expect to hear breathing. But again, it’s the scale that gives the piece its power.

I can recall having experienced people at or near death as being somehow smaller physically than I remember them when they were more vital. Mueck cuts straight to the heart of it by actually reducing the size.

If you live in Edmonton, don’t miss the chance to see these pieces – they’ll be leaving after September 7. If you live elsewhere, hopefully they’ll come to a gallery near you; if they do, don’t take the time to see them, or any Ron Mueck exhibit for that matter. The material on the web gives you a sense of the experience, but actually being in their presence is a quantum leap beyond seeing pictures or video, and is really the only way they can be adequately experienced.

Please, AGA, if you can afford it, more Mueck!

My Right Foot and Other Interiors

ight. Well, I promised some time ago that I would post the scans of my foot and body, so here they are. (Higher resolution versions, if you’re actually interested, are available in this set on Flickr.) For the back story on these, have a look at this post.

Here’s my observations about these.

First, I think we’re all curious about our own interiors. Maybe it’s a morbid curiosity, maybe it’s genuine fascination. As for the form that view of our interior takes, some may be less desirable than others.

I remember accidentally cutting a large hole in my right arm when a knife slipped. As they were sewing me back together, I got a glimpse of some subcutaneous curiosities. Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that squeamish about it, probably because the gash was only about an inch long. Now, if my abdomen had been opened up and my guts were trailing behind me like a macabre sausage link, well, then … but I digress.

The foot X-rays are very detailed, as you would expect for something for medical purposes. I was interested to see so many fine details: small veins in the skin on my heel; tiny lines running through what I guess are the bone surfaces. It makes me wish I knew more about basic anatomy in order to have a better appreciation for what I’m seeing. At the heart of all this is the simple yet profound idea that these are my bones I’m looking at.

I found the full body scans to be low resolution, difficult to make out details. (Check the Flickr posting for larger versions.) I was hoping to see more detail, especially in the skull area, which to me would have been extremely interesting. With a little Photoshopping, I could have played Yorick and Hamlet at the same time!

However, one detail did capture my interest: the brightest spot on the scan, which is clearly the bladder. I was injected with a radioactive tracer about two hours before the scan, and was told to drink a lot of fluids to flush it through my system. As a result, there’s a high concentration of the stuff in that region. In fact, it almost looks to me like the bladder is a kind of nightlight, illuminating the interior of my pelvis and conducted the length of my spine. A glow-in-the-dark Visible Man model.

I was thinking I’d have some more profound insights about these images, but in the end they’re more of a curiosity. I do enjoy having been through the process, and the images are a good keepsake of the whole bone scan episode. I do feel a bit guilty about having the procedures done in light of the recent scarcity of medical isotopes, but my scans occurred before the recent crisis, and since it was my doctor’s choice to do them rather than mine, the guilt is only slight.

As for my right foot, it’s still just a bit swollen on top. I was put on a round of anti-inflammatory drugs to take the swelling down. No significant problems were found, no damaged bones, so it’s probably just a very minor injury that’s taking its time to heal. Since I walk every day, that’s probably prolonging the healing process.

One development, which my doctor tells me is not cause for concern and happens to people my age: the report that came with the X-rays says that there is “mild osteoarthritic change in the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe.” I don’t have a comment for this, I just like medical technobabble. Metatarsophalangeal. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la la la!