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Together with a Taiwanese media artist, Fraunhofer MEVIS designed a creative workshop for pupils.



What happens when you lock a scientist, an artist, and 25 pupils, grades 7 to 9, in one room for two days? All participants emerge enriched by new and interesting experiences. The pupils learned to work creatively with medical technology and media art. The professionals felt inspired by the fresh and confident approach of the pupils.

In short, this summarizes a workshop that took place at the Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing MEVIS in cooperation with the International Fraunhofer Talent School Bremen, Germany at the end of March. The workshop was part of a new artist-in-residence program called ‘STEAM Imaging’ initiated by Fraunhofer MEVIS and Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. STEAM stands for the fusion of the ‘clear-cut’ disciplines of science, technology, and mathematics and the more ‘fuzzy’ artistic world. 

As the first resident in the new program, Taiwanese media artist Yen Tzu Chang had the opportunity to be a guest at Fraunhofer MEVIS for two weeks. Alongside researchers in Bremen, she developed novel ideas for a workshop with pupils to fuse art and science in an innovative way.

Chang, who studies at the University of Art and Design in Linz, Austria, specializes in experimental sound performances. Her new electronic instruments are inspired by the methods and approaches of natural science, medical experts, and computer scientists. “I try to develop new opportunities for the artistic toolbox and integrate them in my work,” she says.

An important part of her residency at Fraunhofer MEVIS was the two-day workshop with interested pupils that Yen Tzu Chang held together with MEVIS mathematician Sabrina Haase. “The preparation reminded me of my own school years,” says Chang. “When I was in school, there were a lot of rules and boundaries. For our workshop, I opted instead to give the pupils as much freedom as possible, but at the same time sufficient structure and orientation.”

Chang and Haase first split the workshop into two groups. One group dipped their hands in small trays to create plaster casts. They poured gelatin into the casts to create detailed models of their hands. The pupils placed their models in an MRI scanner similar to those used in hospitals. “A 3D image of the hand was created without pupils having to insert their hands into the scanner,” explains Sabrina Haase.

On the next day, the pupils loaded their image data onto a computer with a development application framework for medical image processing and scientific visualization to observe the data in 3D and transform it artistically. They were able to color the images and create their own personal artworks with the help of an MRI scanner and scientific image processing software.

The second group digitally processed 3D image data of the head and torso provided by MEVIS scientists. The pupils created short artistic video sequences. “We combined those videos with my own software and produced electronic sounds based on the images,” explains Yen Tzu Chang. “Furthermore, we incorporated the sounds the MRI scanner generates when taking images.” To record the sounds, the pupils used fruit to produce their own MRI image acquisitions.

These harsh mechanical sounds built the basis for two sound performances during which pupils played everyday objects such as tables and trash cans to unleash unusual sounds. “I was surprised by how differently the pupils approached their performances,” says Chang. “Some were spontaneous and willing to improvise; others wanted to have their performance as planned and structured as possible.”

The feedback from the pupils was predominantly positive. Although most pupils were satisfied with the workshop, there were a few notable outliers: two pupils were enthusiastic and gave top marks, whereas two others were disappointed and were not able to do anything constructive within the workshop. “The pupils found the scientific image processing interesting and learned more about media art,” explains Sabrina Haase, who also gained a better understanding from the workshop about the interplay of art and science. “I learned that I have to be more open in the future,” says Haase. “In my daily routine as application-oriented scientist, I am very goal-oriented and straightforward. But we should take a deeper look at what happens around us. This broadens a person’s horizons significantly.”

And what is the artist’s summary? “STEAM Programs like this one offer great opportunities for young people to come into contact with media art and to better assess its importance,” says Yen Tzu Chang. In June, alongside Sabrina Haase, she will give the next workshop, this time in Austria with pupils from Linz. The workshop will focus on processing medical images, creating short video sequences, and combining them with sound. Beyond that, she will present the results of her own artwork created within this residency at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz from September 7 to 11, 2017.


Photo: Flicker, Yen Tzu Chang

Helping the Public Understand Science

Fraunhofer MEVIS is committed to raising awareness about how computerization influences health care and to inspiring the young to consider career pathways in science by showing new ideas, approaches, and possibilities that emerge from innovative R&D.