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Art in Medicine: A Science of Desirable and Detestable Bodies

Rachel Fein-Smolinski in front of workA Science of Desirable/Detestable Bodies is a site-specific installation in SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Health Sciences Library. It includes large-scale prints of patient portraits from the clinical photographs collection in The Archives and Special Collections, sci-fi inspired studio tableaux of historical artifacts and medications from the object collection, images produced through biomedical imaging techniques (e.g. x-rays, photomicrographs) and illustrations from rare books and medical texts. These images reflect the courage, pain, and complex private narratives embedded within the institution’s history.

As a former patient at Upstate, I have been dependent upon, beholden to, and present within the historical narrative of the institution. With this autobiographical influence in mind, there is a private subjectivity signified within each image of patients preserved in the archives. Using the sci-fi genre as a license to sublimate my scopophilic (visually indulgent) relationship with the aesthetics of science, I explore how knowledge is produced, documented, and disseminated in favor of assuaging the pain of others within the histories of institutionalized healthcare, and question what sort of historical narratives are embedded within medical archives.