Comparative Guts

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Henry Gray (anatomist) and Henry Vandyke Carter (artist), Fig. 1005, Superior and inferior duodenal fossæ.

Gray’s Anatomy Descriptive and Applied. A New American Edition (1913), p. 1265.
Private collection: Nina Sellars. Photographer: Nina Sellars.

Giving thoughtful attention to the physical qualities of the classical anatomical atlases brings our awareness not only to their content and history but also to the choreographic elements, of space, body, movement and time, which evolve through our careful handling and reading of these editions. Moreover, delicate incidentals that may appear in the print can be enhanced through acts of mediation. For example, a close-up of an illustration can transpose it into a magnified specimen—as seen in this photographed page from Gray’s Anatomy. Here, the words ‘recess’ and ‘fold’ are not only tethered visually to the anatomical illustration of intestines but also seem to label the book’s internal architecture, that is, its guts. As the page recedes into the spine of the book’s binding, a fossa is created. The shallow depth of field in the photograph intensifies the effect, by allowing the words to drift out of focus.
In comparison to analogue books, the digital media employed in contemporary anatomy archives reconfigure our choreography of engagement with visuals. Significantly, the methods that are used to create and view images in the twenty-first century seem to complicate prior notions of reality—for example, augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality. To a large extent, we no longer look at images, but rather, we interact with images in multiple dimensions and in multisensory ways. Increasingly, it would appear that any contemporary definition of the word ‘image’ will need to question where the image appears, how it appears, and how it relates to (our general understanding of) reality, that is, is the viewer assimilated into the view of the image, or more interestingly, is the image behaving as an object.