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WHOSE SCALPEL: The artistic outcome of the residency STEAM Imaging by artist Yen Tzu Chang

The premiere of Yen Tzu Changs performance WHOSE SCALPEL at the Ars Electronica Festival 2017. The installation is the artistic outcome of the artist-in-residency project STEAM Imaging, which I designed, lead and realized with the mathematician Sabrina Haase for Fraunhofer MEVIS.


"WHOSE SCALPEL" is a sound performance combined with visual and 3D printed installation, realized with an application framework for medical image processing. Mixing several methods from art and science, it is an imagination of the future and presents the issues of the relationship between human and machine in heart surgery. The concept is developed from out of three different areas – the application of sound in medical science, coronary artery bypass surgery, and machine learning. The background story of the performance is based on the assumption that in the near future a surgeon works with the machine which can give advice in a surgery. (...)

Another state of the art example is the video from the YouTube channel of Fraunhofer MEVIS – Auditory guidance prototype for navigated liver surgery. The video shows that if the scalpel deviates from the correct cutting path, the device will make a different sound to notify the surgeon.

(...) In the performance, an artistic imagined AI will be in charge of more important medical tasks such as analyzing the patient’s body condition and giving doctors suggestions with sound and visual in a future surgery. The story line is lead by the sound and the mixed video of medical images and live performance from the webcam. The goal of the performer as a surgeon in the surgery is to cure the heart, which symbolizes human’s conscious and faith. The AI, which is regarded as a perfect model, instructs the performer. Maybe the question “If machines can reason even better than human, will we as human lose some abilities and even not believe ourselves anymore?” is worth to think about since the issue is already present.

Read more in: The Practice of Art & Science, The European Digital Art and Science Network, Hatje Cantz 2017, Ed. Ars Electronica Center Linz, Artist Residency at Fraunhofer MEVIS, page 50 – 55.

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