Accepted Paper:

Hand on Heart: Performing Tender Surgery  


Christina Lammer (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

In Hand on Heart I focus on a 16 mm short movie of an operation on the open heart. I produced the film in the frame of the arts-based research project Performing Surgery that compares gestures of surgeons in various clinical fields.

Paper long abstract:

Entering the heart: I will introduce an approach that goes beyond the boundaries of the human body. Inspired by the work of feminist theorists, I attend open-heart surgery as a filmmaker, exploring hand gestures and modes of expression. I am particularly interested in the silent orchestration of hands. This intimate interplay of surgeons and scrub nurses is difficult to put into words. Nevertheless the sensory and empathetic capacities of surgeons - intra-operatively - are central issues in the frame of my research. Methodologically I use digital and analogue cameras to study surgical operations. Whereas the digital footage is conceptually closer to documentary, the analogue short movies already include an artistic transformation. Grainy black and white close-up images of operating hands and bodies in sterile gloves and garments are in strong contradiction to clean and colorful high-resolution video recordings of surgeries. A specific tactility unfolds. A haptic quality touches spectators beyond the skin. With Hand on Heart I attempt to put my finger on a variety of meanings of how the heart - as emotional organ and as a pump - is perceived. Experiences and stories of heart patients are interwoven with the ones of surgeons. Approaching tales of love and grief in a machine-centered clinical environment where operators perform tender surgery. Keeping the heart away. Opening the spreader only far enough so that the hand can tenderly reach inside the body's cavity.

Panel T019
Science and Technology through Critical Art Practice