Karen Fleming, John McLachlan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


‘Dermatome’ arises from a Wellcome Trust funded collaboration between artists and medics at the Universities of Ulster and Durham. The project explores aesthetic approaches to conveying factual information about hidden maps of the body. ‘Desensitisation’ of medical students to the body has long been viewed a desirable outcome of training. The teaching of anatomy already draws upon physical models however these tend to be standardized and take no account of haptic sensibilities or emotional involvement. While it is widely believed that success hinges on learning concepts rather than memorizing facts, conventional teaching aids describe what happens but do not evoke a meaning. We seek to reveal meaning not only in form but also in materials and processes. The body is a physical landscape which medical practitioners must learn to navigate. This landscape contains many visible markers and more elusive signs that practitioners learn to recognize but there are also hidden maps, which are not well known to the general public. One example is dermatomes.Dermatomes are areas of the body supplied by a single nerve root, and are clinically important in diseases such as shingles and in anaesthesia, as well as in a variety of other contexts.Body painting turns the body into a handcrafted object by describing functions and ascribing a sense of objectness to the body, so the impact of nakedness is defused. It has been argued that the traditional medical curriculum is too narrow and that inclusion of the humanities ‘can produce a different sort of doctor; one who is richer and deeper as an individual.’ (Hampshire and Avery 2001). In developing dermatome body maps as aesthetic objects we examined 2D diagrams of “anatomical position” dermatomes in widely used medical texts. Translation from 2D to real body is expected in clinical practice but our translation by bodypainting onto real 3D bodies exposed unexpected anomalies and unanticipated problems. This expanded upon our original intention to explore meaning and symbolism of the body.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Jul 2009
EventThe 15th ETN Conference, including the General Assembly Haslach/Upper Austria - Linz, Austria
Duration: 21 Jul 2009 → …


ConferenceThe 15th ETN Conference, including the General Assembly Haslach/Upper Austria
Period21/07/09 → …
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Project leader -Prof. Artist Karen Fleming
Medical Lead -Prof John McLaughlin
Research assistant- Aoife Ludlow
Additional body painters -Sharon Conway, Gabrielle Finn, Duncan Neil
Model- Heidi Pryce
Photography - Errol Forbes


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