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Kenneth Wilkes


A video installation exploring MRI technology and Mental States (4 minute video loop/installation)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology is considered by many in the medical profession to be the gold standard for imaging the human body.

Patients often assume that their physicians can’t possibly keep up with rapid advances in medical technology.  They are threatened by the prospect that something can go wrong.  Not uncommonly, patients request an MRI on their first visit to their doctor.

The MRI has become synonymous in the eyes of the patient with ‘not missing something’.

But an interesting paradox arises from the inherent technology of MRI.  Unlike a CT scan, which can be completed in mere minutes, the MRI is a slow process, often lasting up to an hour.  To the patient, this can feel like an eternity.  There may also be a great deal of anxiety experienced before and during the MRI procedure, as the results can determine whether or not a life-threatening disease is present.

While MRI images of the body are being generated, the patient is simultaneously embarking on an unintended exercise of witnessing his or her personal identity and acknowledging mental states that may have eluded conscious perception.  A multitude of mental states arise and fall away.  Hope, grief, sadness, joy, and anger are often experienced.  Reflection on early childhood, mid-life decisions, and regrets, as well as visions of growing old and dying, are also common.

In the context of our daily lives, most of us are distracted and quickly engage in various activities whenever these mental states arise.  But within the tight, claustrophobic compartment of the MRI, one is forced to observe them.  One has the serendipitous opportunity to explore one’s true nature.  When was the last time that most of us can say we have witnessed our thoughts without the distractions of the outside world for even ten minutes?


Kenneth Wilkes  2012

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