Marilene Oliver

Marilene Oliver builds bodies for the bodiless, using data scanned from the human form to build a range of three-dimensional constructions. The artist’s raw materials include MRI scans, CAT scans, and other medical imaging technologies. Oliver explains: “I seek to reclaim the body from the contemporary medical and digital gaze in order to poetically subvert it and offer future relics of our digitised selves.”

Marilene Oliver 1

“I Know You Inside Out,” 2001

Marilene Oliver 2

“I Know You Inside Out,” 2001

Oliver has worked with forms she knows intimately, including family members, and also through a sustained investigation has come to know an anonymous set of data known as “Mellanix.” But her inquiry also includes a reconstruction of the bodies of those she could never possibly know: the dead.  “I Know You Inside Out” (2001) was constructed from “The Visible Human,” a digitized series of cross-sectional photographs of the body of Joseph Jernigan, whose body was donated to science after his execution in 1993. Oliver screen-printed these cross sections in silver ink onto transparent sheets and reassembled the body. “Iceman: Frozen, Scanned and Plotted” (2006) was built from the digitized remains of Ötzi, the so-called “Tyrolean Iceman,” a natural mummy discovered in the Alps in 1991.

Marilene Oliver 4

“Iceman: Frozen, Scanned and Plotted,” 2006

Marilene Oliver 3

“Iceman: Frozen, Scanned and Plotted,” 2006

In a 2009 essay, Laura Cumming wrote:

But what is so distinctive about Oliver’s art is its spectral nature. Her figures are life-sized, so that you confront them one to one, as in a real human encounter. Yet they are not quite human in appearance. Fantastical, ghostly, weightless, fragile as an insect’s wings, all they really share with mankind is a vestigial outward appearance. Virtuality, that most elusive of states, has become part of their content. They are such stuff as dreams are made on: avatars finding three-dimensional form in the world of contemporary art.

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