Imagining the Self

Jennifer Willet - Imagining the Self (Digital Photography, 2001) Photographer: Shawn Bailey

Imagining the Self
Jennifer Willet

This paper/art work is the first incarnation of an evolving critique of the textualization of the human subject in terms of the collected and digitalized data that constitutes a patient’s medical dossier.  Imagining the self is a multi-media paper/presentation that mobilizes a complex relationship between image/text, design and digital imaging technologies to access the subjective site of a fictitious patient as she undergoes testing and treatment for a series of elusive  degenerative symptoms.  I see this project as a virtual dossier illuminating the role of the patient in a medical system entrenched in positivist dogma and bureaucratic backlog.  Here the systematic analysis and categorization of the subject in search of a correct and logical diagnosis is challenged by the interjection of personal and theoretical concerns in understanding the ailing body.  Where medicine looks to symptomatic analysis and corroborative evidence in the form of biopsy, clinical imaging and blood cultures, the patient desires dialogue and reassurance that is informed by medical practices but far exceeds the narrow parameters set by scientific inquiry.  The individual’s inability to interpret the medical dossier – the textual compellation and representation of the human body – of the patient’s own body -  renders the patient powerless and ill-equipped to take on the role of an active agent in their own disease experience.  Where as this fictitious document is laid open to the patient’s interpretation of its contents and encourages its viewers/readers to engage with the specialized language and images produced within digital medical records with the goal of uncovering the meaning that such texts hold for their correlated owners, patients – selves.

In 2001 Imagining the Self was presented at Affective Encounters: Rethinking Embodiment in Feminist Media Studies at the University of Turku Finland,­­ Strategies of Critique XV: Human Nature at York University in Toronto, and Corporealities at Concordia University in Montreal.