MASS MoCA’s “It’s Only Human” Illuminates Art, Science & Education

Art Using X-ray Scans Sparks Discussion of Body Image & More at MASS MoCA
Saturday, June 14, 2014 through Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MASS MoCA’s Kidspace kicks off the summer with a new exhibition and activity program. The exhibition, “It’s Only Human,” features work by British artists Nick Veasey and Marilene Oliver, who are both internationally recognized for their innovative uses of medical imaging technology in their art. Both artists’ works illuminate the complexities of human bodies and the systems by which they are regulated, and inspire dialogue about the inner beauty of all human beings, regardless of our outer appearances, and serve as a creative jumping-off point for discussions of anatomy, health, and wellness, as well as self-image. While this exhibition is on display at Kidspace, visitors of all ages – especially those interested in science and medicine – will find it engaging and educational.

Veasey’s work is often focused on the human skeleton and inner structural elements. He is famous for creating one of the largest X-ray scans in the world – of a Boeing 777 airplane! – and this exhibition at Kidspace features a similarly gigantic X-ray of a bus filled with passengers. Do you think you will be able to distinguish the structure of the bus from the skeletal structures occupying it? Veasey has also X-rayed a person on a motorcycle. What can you infer about his choice to scan vehicles used for human transportation, including their passengers? Why might this be significant? Why it is important to be able to identify the structures embedded within everyday objects and people?

It’s Only Human at MASS MoCA’s Kidspace, Marilene Oliver, 2014, exhibition

Conversely, Oliver uses the technology to draw attention to the less-structured elements of the body: organs, flesh, and the movement of blood throughout. She uses several medical scanning techniques such as CT (computed tomography) scans and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, then interprets them into three-dimensional cross-section sculptures of the human body using techniques like weaving and wood-carving. What can you infer about her choice to re-imagine these scans – products of a modern, scientific process – using traditional craft techniques that have been used by humans for thousands of years? Why is this a significant artistic decision? What message does it send? Do you think that her reimagined sculptures look human? What does “human” mean to you?

Don’t miss the opening reception for “It’s Only Human” at MASS MoCA’s Kidspace on Saturday, June 14 from 11am-1pm! Take a look at the works on display, have an open-ended family discussion about the exhibition (Not sure how to start? Try using the questions above!), create a portrait of your “inner self” at the ArtBar, and use medical equipment to examine models and pictures of the interior structures and organs of the human body. In the Kidspace reflection area, build on your new knowledge of human anatomy and learn how to understand and sense your body in new ways with a breathing exercise called “body scanning.” Following the reception, the Hudson Vagabond Puppets will perform the picture-book classic “Caps for Sale” at 2pm.

This fall, Veasey and Oliver will visit MASS MoCA to conduct a series of artist talks, residencies with partner schools, and work with teens and college students. Please visit for more details as the fall season approaches.

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. 87 Marshall St. North Adams, MA. 413-662-2111. Fall/Winter/Spring hours: open 11am-5pm six days a week; closed Tuesdays. Summer hours (June 21-Sept 1): 10am-6pm Sunday-Wednesday, 10am-7pm Thursday-Saturday. Admission: $18 adults, $16 veterans and seniors, $12 students, $6 ages 6-16, free ages 5 and under; members free year round.

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