The X-Rayed Human

The rays that Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered in 1895 are the most spectacular example at that time of the fact that photography opens up inaccessible areas to human perception. More than half a century later, art translates this into a play with the ideas of introspection and perception. Photography’s objectivity now becomes an ironic self-discovery that transforms X-ray images into picture puzzles. In doing so, art also draws on the reception of early works of art. For instance, when Barbara Hammer, Jürgen Klauke or Robert Rauschenberg X-ray the human body in their works, their pictures seem to incorporate the concept of “Memento mori rays”, with which the discovery is characterised at the end of the nineteenth century. Looking at X-ray Images evokes associations such as disease, impermanence and death. It once more becomes apparent that technology defines our everyday lives down to its finest ramifications – in its curative as well as its destructive properties.

Robert Rauschenberg
Booster, 1967
Sammlung Marx, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
© Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019