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'Only the darkness knows who I am' : discourses on x-rays in the shadow clinic and how visualizing shadows contributes to the possibilities of aesthetic empathy in the perception of the body in x-ray : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of PhD in Visual and Material Culture at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
This thesis examines the discourses of x-ray images as they exist on-line. Throughout my research I apply both the stance of both the privileged flâneur/euze and the badaud(s) that have been identified as an ideological manifestation of the mass media since the early 20th century and established as characterisations of Euro-Western modernity (Shaya 2006). By examining specific case studies gathered from the resources of the World Wide Web, my thesis has worked to establish the existence of what I have called “The Shadow Clinic”. It applies methodologies that incorporate both subjective and objective viewpoints assigned to examine and provide analysis for, identifying an ‘empathic vision’ that might exist in the examination of clinical visual material. I have also investigated the possibilities of bringing to these images an empathic vision that incorporates both an aesthetic and semiotic analysis of the image along with an appraisal of the images’ effectiveness through narratives and responses. The basic premise is that images are powerful and demanding and the perspective of medical imaging technologies works like all other images to change our perception of ourselves as well as of our understanding of the world. Using the metaphorical, allegorical and physical entity of shadows as a visually potent, literally complex and politically charged manifestation, the methodological stance moves in between giving importance to the physical manifestation — or the quantifiable — and meta-physical — or qualitative.
Limited but unhindered by not being a radiologist, the authorial perspective is one of examination and analysis (rather than diagnostic) of images that have strongly impacted upon the visual world since the last century. Such images continue to produce concurrent social and cultural ambiguities — ambiguities that persistently exist between what is revealed and what is concealed.
Using the concept of “The Shadow Clinic”, this thesis demonstrates some of the plethora of discourses emergent through the visibility of x-ray imagery on–line and in addition to the more conservative approach of using medical material through the publication of academic papers and research, the space of the World Wide Web is the space of the marketing, pedagogy, palliation and ministration. I have studied the workings of the Shadow Clinic, through the texts on the historical and political machinations of the Clinic by Foucault and Illich, as well as social and cultural theorist who concentrate on the place of empathic vision and clinical perspectives. This thesis particularly concentrates on the engagement with the aesthetic of empathy through visualization, and focuses on how shadows do the work of accentuating proximity and remoteness, the Body and embodiment.