Vic McEwan is a contemporary artist and co-founder of the Cad Factory, an artist-led organisation that re-imagines the world through artistic practices. Here Vic shares a recent arts-research project that created a unique choir duet between singers and an MRI scanner, in an exploration of the human voices that are sometimes lost amidst the cacophony of hospital care.

The Harmonic Oscillator

The Harmonic Oscillator was a project delivered between 2014-18 at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in the UK. The aim of the project was to undertake an artist led exploration of the negative impacts of sound levels within hospital spaces. Outcomes included research into the sound levels at that hospital, a series of artworks that explored various aspects of sound, trauma and care, and a lot of meaningful relationship building. Back in Australia, the project was awarded the 2018 CHASS Award (Council of Humanities, Arts and Social Science Prize for Distinctive Australian Work).

The Harmonic Oscillator included one outcome that involved artistic work made in collaboration with an MRI scanner. This work explored the intense sonic bombardment of the MRI scanner and the impacts this has on patients, with many participants talking about the stress they feel from the loud rhythmic sounds that emanate from the machine.

Recently, during my PhD research (2019-2023), I managed to revisit the MRI scanner again, albeit it just briefly, to make this video artwork. The work is a collaboration with singers from The House that Dan Built, an all-female choir directed by artist Danielle O’Keefe. The choir were directed to sing in duet with the soft, hidden, almost human-like tones that are buried within the cacophony of the MRI scanner. This aim of the video was to create a unique collaboration that attempts to soften/humanises the technology of medical machinery used in clinical settings.  It is an exploration of the soft and fragile voices that are sometimes lost within medical care experiences.

This video is now being shared more widely in celebration of a new partnership that will continue undertaking new artistic research into the impacts of the noise of the MRI scanner and the potential for the arts to integrate deeply within clinical processes.

Listen to and Watch the MRI Choir Duet


Feature image: From the video MRI Choir Duet, Vic McEwan
Article by Vic McEwan
Posted by Jessie Zhou